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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt


Write what you know, said Mark Twain. So, having spent seven months at the tail end of my career as an accountant working for a creative and media agency (pretty sure that’s what we were) I now have all the qualifications required to be able identify when TV programmes end and the adverts start.

That’s not to say I can always understand what’s being advertised. There’s that one for bookmaker Coral which starts off by asking “Ever wondered what it feels like to own a race horse?” Nope, I mean, what am I going to do with a race horse? In any case, there’s nothing in the next 30 seconds which explains how ownership of the horse is going to be legally, or even practically, transferred. There’s a bit of aimless staring at your own feet as you walk through the stables, feeding a horse out of your hand, receiving a salute from a jockey, before he gallops off into the distance, possibly with your money. “This is what it feels like to be an owner” ie bewildering and a little bit shameful. There’s then a meaningless risk warning flashed on screen for a nanosecond, “Take Time to Think”, although whether that’s in relation to gambling or owning a race horse is unclear.

My favourite ad at the moment is for Marmite from adam&eveDDB. Unlike the one for Coral, it’s straightforward: two sock puppets trying Marmite on toast for the first time to the soundtrack of a banging electro track (granted, that might scare the race horses). The calls to action couldn’t be clearer either, “push that”, “grab that”, “stroke that”, “lick that”, all the instructions required for making toast, spreading Marmite on toast, eating toast. No way could they be confused with, for example, an invitation to perform a sexual act. Love it. Hate it. Get it on. Whoever is in charge of marketing at Coral could learn something here.

The track is a remix of Workout by Charlie Yin, professionally known as Giraffage, although to my ears, it does sound a bit like Drone Logic by Daniel Avery. No matter, it’s absolutely superb. It feels like it was recorded on a Roland TB-303, the iconic analogue synthesiser discontinued in 1984 but which later became the instrument of choice for DJs and producers riding the wave of acid house. The squelchy electronic sound of the likes of A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray, Josh Wink - Higher State of Consciousness, Daft Punk - Da Funk, even the bassline of Rip It Up by Glasgow’s own Orange Juice.

I suspect it’s not an actual TB-303 used but a digital emulation of one. Is this important? Maybe not, although as Oli Freke says in his excellent book, Synthesizer Evolution (Velocity Press, 2020) “There has always been a lingering doubt that a computer can truly replicate the real-world complexity of electricity coursing through real diodes, capacitors and transistors.” Thinking about that is a worry to me and - combined with eating Marmite on toast just before bedtime - often keeps me awake at night.

Often it's the small things in life.

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