Magazine article Marketing

THE MATERIAL YEARS 1982-1992: It Was the Era of 'Loadsamoney' and the Yuppie - a Decade That Witnessed High Spending by Consumers and Companies Alike, with Advertising Playing a Key Role in Building Brands

Magazine article Marketing

THE MATERIAL YEARS 1982-1992: It Was the Era of 'Loadsamoney' and the Yuppie - a Decade That Witnessed High Spending by Consumers and Companies Alike, with Advertising Playing a Key Role in Building Brands

Article excerpt

Fast cars, fast living, big hair, bigger shoulder pads, make-up for the girls and more for the men. Welcome to the excessive, dramatic, 'loadsamoney' 80s.

The decade began with war in the Falklands and ended with war in Iraq.

There was fighting in the streets, with the miners' strike in 1984 and the poll tax riots in 1990, and a fight in science as the world battled against AIDS.

These were greedy, divisive times, presided over by Margaret Thatcher, whose famous saying 'There's no such thing as society' summed up the self-serving spirit of the time.

Tom Wolfe, in his novel Bonfire of the Vanities, called it the 'Me Generation'.

Money was everything, and the quest to make lots of it as fast as possible saw the economy swing violently from the highs of the Big Bang in 1986 to the lows of Black Monday's stock market collapse in 1987.

This over-the-top mindset permeated every aspect of British life, including music and fashion, which entered its most ludicrous stage as Adam and the Ants and Spandau Ballet led us pouting and prancing into the frilly-shirted nonsense of New Romanticism.

In this big-spending, anything goes climate, the role of advertising and the building of giant brands came to the fore. A classic example is British Airways, which with the help of Thatcher's favourite ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, became a true superbrand during the 80s. To many, BA's ads, and the agency that created them, are the epitome of 80s excess.

At the beginning of the decade, BA was a loss-making, state-subsidised leviathan (it lost pounds 544m in 1982). But by 1987 Lord King had managed to prepare it for privatisation, trimming it into a state where it was highly attractive to shareholders and the ensuing stock offering was 11 times over-subscribed. The success of the privatisation was hugely influenced by Saatchis ads and its famous tagline 'The World's Favourite Airline'.

BA muscles in

As BA's confidence grew, so did the scale of its commercials. The 1989 'Face' enlisted a cast of 1000 to form a winking Picasso-inspired face.

The ad was meant to show the human side of BA, as well as its global stature.

Wielding such muscle, BA thought it could easily see off new rivals when uber-entrepreneur Richard Branson launched Virgin Atlantic in 1984. For much of Virgin Atlantic's early days, BA tried to make life as hard as possible, much as it had done for Laker Airways, which went bust in 1982.

But Lord King's strong-arm tactics landed the airline in court, as Branson accused BA of waging a 'dirty tricks' campaign, including poaching Virgin's passengers, hacking into computers and feeding stories to the media. Virgin was awarded pounds 600,000 in damages.

Another superbrand borne from a massive 80s privatisation was BT. To maximise publicity, BT hiked its adspend by 83% in 1984, investing pounds 43m.

BT also tried to endear itself to the nation by introducing us to new phone designs, ending years of bakelite boredom. It continued its huge push throughout the 80s with some memorable campaigns, including Maureen Lipman's Jewish matriarch, so proud of her grandson's 'ology'.

As telecoms became more consumer oriented, they also went mobile, with Cellnet and Vodafone launching in 1985. The mobile phone quickly joined the BMW and Filofax as badges of honour for the champagne-swilling yuppie, with 25,000 phones sold in the first year.

The 80s also gave us other techno-goodies, like the compact disc player, the video recorder and satellite TV, which arrived in the UK with the launch of Rupert Murdoch's Sky in 1989. Ten months later, the ill-fated British Satellite Broadcasting came to market, but the razor-toothed Australian soon scuppered his British rival, swallowing it up in 1990.

The 80s was a busy time for British media brands, what with the launch of Channel 4 and the arrival of breakfast TV with TV-AM. …

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