Radio Advertising

at it's Best

I love this radio ad from Ireland Davenport for a World War I exhibition, its shockingly powerful.

If this radio advert doesn’t generate interest in the dark history of the First World War and get people visiting the War Museum, I doubt anything will.

You could argue that it’s not difficult to incorporate some kind of shock factor when advertising anything relating to that sanguinary conflict, simply because of the sheer scale of the catastrophe. However, this ad reduces the destruction down into a shape that people can understand, in the form of the sound of a bullet being dropped onto a table, then builds it up into proportions that rapidly become alarming. The words ‘…in the first hour of the battle’ serve as a harrowing climax, guaranteed to cause a sharp intake of breath in the listener.

I wonder if Ireland and Davenport had the words often misattributed to Stalin; ‘The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic” in their minds when writing this ad and thus came up with a stark way to illustrate exactly opposite. In any case, it made me immediately think of the poignant ending of Dickie Attenborough’s masterpiece; ‘Oh What a Lovely War’.

In many ways the radio ad conveys much of the same message, just as the camera zooms further and further out and you start to disbelieve the number of crosses stretching into the horizon, just so with the sound of so many bullets clattering onto the table.

This War Museum ad is a real exemplar of how powerful the much –maligned medium of radio can be. In Dave Trott’s brilliant collection of short essays ‘Creative Mischief’ (which I’m indebted to my boss for introducing to me) he writes about the power of radio in developing your imagination, using the illustrious history of radio comedy at the BBC as an example. So many people now use television as a way to switch their minds off and thus most of it washes over them, including the ads. Whereas in radio you have to imagine half of everything for yourself and you’re completely engaged as a result.

If this radio advert doesn’t generate interest in the dark history of the First World War and get people visiting the War Museum, I doubt anything will.

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