For the two months that I have been in London, I have tried to soak up all that the city has to offer. I’ve discovered the Underground, the East End, the Southbank, numerous different boroughs. I have been exposed to the Royal family especially their newest addition. I have endured the typical rainy weather, as well as the unexpected hot weather. I’ve heard the history of the city and of its newer developments. Out of all these experiences, I was most impressed by one thing: the advertising. It took me a while to notice it. At least it took a while for me, someone who wants to work in the world of communications, to notice it. When I say notice I mean really notice its presence in London. I’m used to advertising that demands to be noticed, constantly. Advertising that screams for your attention so much that it annoys more than it informs you.
I actively choose to read the adverts in London. On the Tube, they entertain me while I try to avoid eye contact with my neighbor. On the street, movie stars move past on iconic red buses, like friends I can to wave to (don’t worry, I don’t actually). I could name a dozen ads right now that I saw this week and thought were clever or well done. One of my favorites has been the First Direct ads. ‘The unexpected bank’ is definitely an unexpected ad campaign for my eyes. It is nothing more than a black background with clear white lettering. The words don’t need a picture to get there meaning across. I remember one that read “We were going to give you two rare porcelain dolls when you opened up an account with us, but we decided on £200 instead.” I walked away chucking to myself and also with the knowledge I could get £200 by opening an account with First Direct. I can assure you, Americans are not usually as clever. I could maybe name a few campaigns from memory back in the States, and they will most likely be a song that is so irritating you can’t help but sing it all day. It seems London and advertising have a better agreement than the U.S. has with its cities. They work together and peacefully coexist in the most hectic environment. They even seem to support one another. I know all the shows playing on the West End this summer not because of Google, but because of escalators.
The ad content is an integral part of the city’s atmosphere. I shouldn’t be surprised by this peaceful relationship. “If you must exist,” I imagine the City of London saying in its proper English accent, “then do so tastefully.” Then he tips his hat and adjusts his pipe. It’s a compromise after all; something we American’s don’t strive towards. I recently took a ‘Culture tests’ in class and one the questions went like this: Is it true that in the UK, a compromise is seen as a positive solution to a problem. I put true because, well, that makes sense and Britons are usually logical, and if there is anything I have learned about America on this trip abroad, it’s that we are usually not so logical. I’m not ashamed of America’s more competitive outlook; it is certainly something to have pride in that we always strive to be the best, to win it all. However, when trying to find a balance between quantity and quality of advertising, it does well to strive toward compromise.