maggiealderson

The right one

In Ad campaigns on October 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I have a little cocktail habit. Not every, but most evenings some time around 6.30pm I’ll have an Americano.

Not the nasty brewed coffee, but a measure of Campari, a measure of Martini Rosso, soda, ice and a slice of orange, mixed up in a hand-blown striped glass tumbler I bought in Venice.

This simple pleasure is one of the great joys of my life. It’s only a very mild buzz, much less than I would get from a glass of wine, but that’s not really the point.

Well, it’s slightly the point, but I could get that from a bog standard G & T, what the Americano, with its double vermouth hit gives me, is a sense of glamour – a very specific sense of glamour which I realise has shaped my whole life.

These ads were on the TV in a very formative stage – the late 1960s and early 1970s – and were hugely influential in developing my idea of a life to aspire to.

A group of beautiful sophisticated people, in cool, relaxed clothing, doing cool, interesting things, like scuba diving, riding horses along a beach, at a Formula One track, racing speed boats back to a yacht moored in a heavenly cove, to the sound track of that cool jingle.

They were all shot from above, with really good editing to long shots and close ups of the beautiful people. They always end with the key couple gazing into each other’s eyes in what I now understand is a state of sex-crazed euphoria. The young me just saw it as the acme of romantic glamour.

And when I went and found those commercials on YouTube just now (couldn’t you just die, how marvellous YouTube is?), they made me feel exactly as they did in 1973. Excitement mixed with yearning.

In fact they gave me exactly the same feeling I hope people will have when they reach the big kiss moment in one of my books… That’s exactly how I picture my unashamedly glamorous characters. And with the ads success they moved the formula on, until some of them became like short films.

So I now understand that not only did these Martini ads shape my ambitions for my own life – and I have scuba dived, power boated, been in a Formula One pit lane, stayed in a ski chalet, and taken a sea plane, so I’ve ticked off quite a few Martini lifestyle experiences – they also contributed enormously to my writing.

No wonder vermouth is my favourite drink. It is the right one.


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  1. Those were the days. Excitement and yearning sums it up nicely. I was reading Marion von Adlerstein’s novel last year and one of her characters enjoyed a Noilly Prat vermouth on the terrace overlooking the harbour. That sounded wonderfully sophisticated so I now have bottle of Noilly in the booze cupboard. I’m still impressionable it seems. Is a new book due soon?

    • Oh I always have Noilly Prat in the fridge… it’s great in cooking as well as in a glass with lots of ice. I also love Dubonnet. In fact there isn’t a vermouth I don’t adore. They fill a gap when I find wine on its own without food just too strong tastings, spirits are too hard core – vermouths occupy the crucial middle area. I miss read Marion’s book, thanks for the reminder x

  2. Oh Maggie, How you gladen my heart. I thought it was just me!

  3. It’s really funny you should be writing this, as I was thinking the same things about the posters for a certain swimwear line I admired in my youth (being reared without the delights of television, posters had a rather disproportionate effect on my developing brain).

    Anyway those images of tanned girls in bikinis reclining under palm trees, or with surfboards under their arms, the wind blowing their “sunbleached” hair, looking effortlessly casual and oh-so-independent (never a man in sight) go a long way towards explaining why getting the “perfect” bikini always feels so important at the start of summer. It’s not about a few triangles of fabric to prevent you getting arrested at the beach, it’s a passport to INDEPENDENT BABEDOM. And while I keenly seek to avoid becoming a “half-baked-moron-consuming-all the-trash” there is something oddly compelling about good advertising or imagery. Like a movie–it can inspire us.

    • I think that defines exactly what advertising is meant to do – to make us believe that a certain product will give us a certain life… what it did for both of us was define a life to aspire to. And it just so happens that I love all vermouth!

  4. Thanks for the clips. I think one of the reasons I started skiing in the 70s was these types of ads!

    The Marlborough Man still makes me feel nostalgic. Surprisingly, not for a fag (loathe smoking) or a hunky horseman; more for memories of visiting my great aunt on a Friday night when she would have her TV tuned to a COMMERCIAL station to watch Bonanza.

    When I really think about it, the most memorable ads for me are the old 60s and 70s tobacco and alcohol ads. Probably because they had the best budgets. Remember the Lindemanns ads? And Peter Stuyvesant. Hmmm. Great glamorous settings, gorgeous and healthy looking people. Ahh, those were the days. Even VB ads – hilarious.

    I loved the character of Margot in Cents and Sensibility – the wrecked glamour of her, through a haze of cocktails and fags.

    I must also admit to once having a thing for SAAB ads at the pictures – long time ago, when cinema ads were high quality. Something about the smooth and expensive booming voice urging me to be part of the exclusive SAAB club of owners.

    • You are right about the budgets – those ads were mini movies. And now I’m wondering if I didn’t see all those Martini ads at the cinema, rather than on TV. I guess that’s why so many film directors start off directing commercials.

  5. Ooh, just remembered – I still have a Martini Rosso glass from some inebriated evening in the 70s. Heaven knows why I kept it. Oh, that’s right, I’m a serial hoarder!

  6. I know the feeling that you are talking about. I am feeling it now after watching the ads. A certain yearning. I have starred this post so that I can go back to it again, and again.

    • That’s really lovely to hear, thanks for that. That is also the feeling I hope my books evoke in people… a feeling that you are sharing it, but also yearning really to be part of it.

  7. Dear Maggie, I vaguely remember those ads – perhaps only in cinema here. Definite vibe is “having a fab time with beautiful people”. I note none of the ads is titled “cripes, here we go on the flipping tube again to dullsville job and thicko colleagues and nothing to do after work but go home and watch X factor on tele”. Basically the aspiration was “life – a constant fun holiday with gorgeous friends and if I drink this I am probably going to score” WORSE THINGS COULD HAPPEN. So glad those tiny movies (regardless of what they were designed to sell/warm and fuzzy official industry description/obviously you were “their “right one” girl” target market wise/all advertising campaigns aspire to hook for life) still make you smile and help you enjoy your well earned evening cocktail that little bit more. A good Americano is a beautiful thing, second only perhaps to my friend Colin’s extremely dry martinis (but that’s another story and a bit more alcohol per serve). Cheers! BX

    • I think I did see them at the cinema actually – I’ll have to edit the post… I always think a ‘dry’ martini is a waste of good vermouth!

      • I have plans to have a martini with Colin at about 7pm tomorrow my time – will discuss and report back to you (mind you he does use extremely good gin!) Bx

  8. I’m absolutely with you Maggie,having worked for Cosmopolitan in the late seventies early eighties I certainly remember the unashamed glamour of the advertising of that era, and I too absolutely love the whole glamourous ritual of pouring a 6.30 cocktail.
    Working from home (or shirking from home as my sister likes to call it) means that I really need to mark a diffence between my work day (deputy dawg pyjamas, scutty hair, minimum make up )and the start of my evening.To that end I have developed a well honed ritual which I call ‘sprucing’
    ‘Abigails party’ esque, it involves a change of clothes,(not quite a cocktail frock, though I would if I could) a spash of perfume, make up, brushed hair and a little tray on which is placed a small dish of nuts, and an expertly prepared Bombay sapphire & tonic (special glass stored in the freezer, on the rocks, twist of lime)
    Hyacinth Bouquet eat your heart out.

    • I love your style Karen. Are you an Aussie? If so, that is something I love about my friends there. They have much higher standards of where the bar has to be set for personal lifestyle – from basic grooming, to the little niceties of your tray and dish of nuts. I think I’m flash just using my best glass! Also love the deputy dawg pyjamas ha ha ha. I drove my daughter to the station in my PJs today. Had to be done.

  9. I grew up with these ads too, and I can still sing the song, without any problem. They were the epitome of glamorous, and nothing like my parents! As a teenager, I drank martini and lemonade, altho now it’s only used in our house to rinse the glass before one of my husband’s killer Tanqueray martinis.

    • Watching all those ads (rather obsessively on repeat…) last night, I was fascinated by how the song developed from a Sinatra type voice, to a woman and then a rather north of England sounding younger guy. I do love a proper dry martini too, but I’m always sad for the wasted vermouth…

  10. That’s it I am buying a bottle of martini! Those ads really suggest glamour, but is that because I am of that certain age? These ads would have been around in my early teenage years, is that the time when we form our idea of what is glamour and beauty? I still think Lauren Hutton and Marisa Berenson at the peak of their modelling days during the ’70s are the epitome of beauty!!
    Anyway, looking forward to reading your new book, and yearning to be part of it xx.

    • Yes, I agree with all of that… I like all the Martinis, the red, the very dry and the Bianco, which is like Cinzano, although I think I like Cinzano even more… Then there’s Campari, Noilly Prat, Dubonnet… l love them all.

  11. As a small child whose family television was strictly on for no more than an hour a day, and only to the ABC, the utmost in glamour and aspiration was the occasional viewing of the Imperial Leather soap ad – a spa with a phone in a private plane and “Tahiti looks nice”. I’m pretty sure it’s contributed to my adult sense that more people live like that than they actually do and that I have been royally cheated – I begged my mum to buy the bloody soap, didn’t I?!

  12. I had such fun revisiting these gorgeous ads (humming the song right now) that I was inspired to go searching for the Leonard Rossiter commercials he did for Cinzano with Joan Collins. (The aroma wasn’t built in a day, haha) Here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirMZGL-0mQ. So hilarious – the outfits, Joan’s makeup, the piss-take faux glam. And now I’m inspired to add Martini rosso to my little Campari & fresh ruby grapefruit that fills the spot so nicely while cooking dinner on Sunday. Thanks Maggie! xx

  13. I’ve come late to this post, but agree. I love Campari and vermouth too. But I’ve gone one better: something that might appeal to you (as an ex Oz resident). I’ve discovered the Campari Shandy and have been enjoying it over our Oz summer. Here’s my latest blog post. Do try it: http://ambradambra.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/italian-shandy-just-add-campari/

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