Daily Archives: February 4, 2009

A Word From Our Sponsors… I Wish They All Could Be Caledonia Girls

When watching these two British Caledonian adverts it’s worth bearing in mind that, all evidence to the contrary, these entertaining but slightly troubling commercials were made in the 1980s (82 and 83, the Choob believes), and not the 1950s.

Here’s the first one I’d like you to watch:

First of all, it’s true that the tune is very catchy – but then it’s one of the Beach Boys‘ biggest hits, so it would be, wouldn’t it?

Second, the altered lyrics (from Californian Girls to Caledonian Girls) were also very memorable, aided by the general cheesiness of the production – chances are, if you were old enough to have seen this ad the first time round, you will still remember it well enough to sing along. So from a brand awareness point of view, it is a great example of the commercial-maker’s art.

But… they get that message across with shameless sexism so blatant that it would make Mad Men‘s Don Draper and the staff of the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency (circa 1963) blush.

Look around those planes – not a woman in sight, apart from the stewardesses, whose sole purpose appears to be to lean suggestively over the middle-aged male passengers, brush against them, feed them grapes (that’s not a figure of speech, it actually happens in the second advert, below!) and generally give them the none-too-subtle impression that they are be up for some mile-high rumpy-pumpy.

That the ads are sexist is certain. More uncomfortable, watching from a distance of 25 years, is the racial attitudes. In truth, racism is probably too strong an indictment – if they are guilty of anything, it’s probably racial/national stereotyping. There’s no malice intended – but that doesn’t make it right.

Here is the second advert. I believe it was made before the one above – and for my money, it’s even more sexist and suggestive, and contains just as much racial stereotyping (but thankfully, no dodgy comments about rice…):

Still, as a product of their time (albeit a time that out to have moved on at least a decade before the ads were made), the British Caledonian ads are a fascinatingly cheesy reminder of an era and style of advertising long gone. They should make you smile at the dodgy, awkward singing from the uniformly unsuitable singing passengers – while at the same time shifting uncomfortably in your chair as you think that, not SO long ago, this passed for acceptable

British Caledonian flew off into the sunset for good a few years after these adverts were made, swallowed up by British Airways. It’s always a little sad watching adverts for now-defunct brands because it means that, ultimately, the advertising failed – or, at least, wasn’t enough to overcome fundamental flaws with the business.

However, thanks to the internet, once-household names such as British Caledonian live on – even if not always for all the right reasons.


Filed under A Word From our Sponsors