IFI adverts archive a treasure trove of nostalgia

Film institute digitises range of commercials from 1960s offering window into State’s past

A new online archive from the Irish Film Institute gives viewers an opportunity to look at advertisements from the 1960s onward. Video: IFI

 

“I always seem to be left out of everything,” says the woman working in an unidentified factory somewhere in 1960s Ireland.

“Something I learned in America,” a co-worker who shares her bench responds instantly. “A woman should always be fresh and sweet. And when you perspire like that,” she says, pointing at the sweat patches under the arms of her colleague “you can’t be smelling fresh and sweet”.

Rather than breaking down in tears or storming off in a strop, the sweaty Betty simply asks if there “is there something I can do?”

Why yes, yes there is. Your wan who was off in America for a while learning how women should smell produces a bottle of Ice Blue Odorono.

The antiperspirant works its magic and before you know it the previously sweating outcast is heading off for a week’s camping with her co-workers where she will presumably continue to smell fresh and sweet because Irish campsites in the 1960s were famous for their bathroom facilities.

This is just one ad of thousands that appeared on Irish television screens in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that have just been saved from extinction by the Irish Film Institute’s archive and some of the ads will be available to view online from Wednesday morning.

Massive collection

The IFI Irish Film Archive, supported by a €290,000 grant from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, has catalogued, digitised, restored and preserved a massive collection of 35mm film television ads which were left rotting and growing mould in damp warehouses across the State for decades.

The film reels were transferred to the IFI for safekeeping in the 1990s but the digitisation process only got under way in earnest 18 months ago through a combination of painstaking processes including frame-by-frame assessment, extensive physical and chemical conservation, followed by scanning and digital restoration.

“I think it’s really important to make these ads available in digital form so people don’t simply have to rely on memory,” the head of the IFI Irish Film Archive Kasandra O’Connell told The Irish Times.

“The ads will obviously have a curiosity value and nostalgia value and will see people be transported back to a particular time in a particular place. But they are also really important in telling us what people were preoccupied with back then and what they responded to so the archive will be of immense value to serious researchers and to documentary-makers as well.”

When asked which of the rescued ads had most resonance for for her, O’Connell did not hesitate: “The one that stuck out for me was an ad for Yoplait with the tagline ‘Mrs Dolan hates yoghurt.’ I loved it. I grew up in London and I just loved the way Irish people said the word yoghurt. Irish people say Yo-gurt while in England they said Yaw-gurt. I’d never heard it pronounced that way before. Me and my sister loved it.”

Was there any ad she could not find but would love to track down? “The one that I would love to find is the one for Big John. I think it went ‘Big John was a muscular man, but he never gave a thought to his backbone.’ We have not found it yet but we haven’t stopped looking and if we do find it I will be over the moon.”

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