By James Hoyle.
There’s an interesting film in the archive concerning the production of television commercials by Associated British-Pathé (as the company was known from 1933 to 1958). It is introduced by McDonald Hobley, better known for his work with the BBC, who takes the audience – in this case, prospective clients – on a tour of Pathé’s Wardour Street studio, the newsreel archive, and the history of the company. This presentation, entitled Introducing Ourselves, was intended to show advertisers the good work that Pathé could do on television commercials, a new media they had begun to exploit only eighteen months previously (circa 1954).
As Hobley’s presentation reveals, Pathé produced about two hundred commercials a year and some of them are included in the film as a showreel. Hobley tries to limit expectations of the selection, not terribly convincingly, by describing the choice as “random…Not necessarily the best that we have produced, but we have tried to limit our selection to those which offer the types of production which we feel will appeal to you – the advertisers – in this area.”
Some of the ads are really quite entertaining and worth a watch, if you can stomach twenty-five minutes of what we’re now used to just fast-forwarding through. The showreel begins with Dunlop Tubeless Tyres, then moves on to: Max Factor’s Top Secret hair spray, Dunkies doughnuts, Guards Trousers, Amami Wave Set, Hiltone, Mum antiperspirant, Brylcreem, Disprin, Twinings Teas, Maxwell House coffee, Black & Decker tools, another Maxwell House ad, Burtons trousers, Hi Fi Lipstick from Max Factor, Mac Fisheries, Blackstone Opticians, Electrolux vacuum, Fred Fearnley Ltd. Scooters and Motorcycles, Scentinel Quiff air freshener, D.D.D., Dinneford’s, Setlers, Fray Bentos, an ad for bread, Bristow’s Hair Tonic, Tide detergent, Wm Younger’s Beer, another Fray Bentos commercial, Heinz, Brylcreem again, Peter Robinson, another for Dunlop, Huntley and Palmers, M & B Bitter, Tide, and Esso Extra.
What’s somewhat odd is that there appears to be some additional later footage tacked onto the end of the presentation. This dates from the 1970s, and must have been added to the film when the archive was under EMI ownership. These are a trailer for Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and a “rather fab” Chrysler Sunbeam ad from 1978.
Introducing Ourselves is valuable for its enticing glimpse behind the scenes of Pathé in the 1950s, the way in which the newsreel archive has by then already been deemed of historical significance worthy of preservation, and for including the only – at least in our collection – examples of Pathé’s commercial work, often forgotten due to the organisation’s usual focus on cinema news and theatrical films.
Watch Hobley’s introduction and behind-the-scenes footage in Part One here.
Watch the various commercials in Part Two of the presentation here.