Peter York On Ads: An Eighties revival - or is it modern day Spain?

Seat Leon

You probably haven't heard about the Romo revival of 1990-something. That's because it never happened. Too early. But there was a tiny plan to launch a band - or several bands, I can't remember - by saying they were Romos, the natural inheritors of a great British tradition which had gone underground but never died. It was our glorious New Romantic past which dated back as far as ... 1980 Spandau Ballet, Visage, Duran Duran and lots of art-school bands with big hair and make-up and blouses (of course, it was more than that, but that's what people remember).

I think Robert Elms, Spandau Ballet's unofficial PR, actually invented the term along with the idea of "white dance music". Elms, who had an LSE first, knew about political insurgency and propaganda and how you had to create the movement that you could front, and quite how susceptible liberal, middle-class journalists were to the call of the wild. The New Romantics themselves were anything but, that was the joke. They were keen to get it on into the real 1980s because they could smell money there.

James Laver, the design and fashion historian who died in 1975, missing the New Romantics by a whisker, set out the rules for awakening interest in old styles. Laver said: "The same dress is indecent 10 years before its time; daring one year before its time; chic (contemporarily seductive) in its time; dowdy five years after its time; hideous 20 years after its time; amusing 30 years after its time; romantic 100 years after its time; beautiful 150 years after its time."

On that basis the early to mid- 1980s - all the "trigger" imagery you could put in a TV package - is coming up nicely for the daring classes. It's at the bottom of the car-boot-sale barrel; the intensity and embarrassment is over; there's a whole new generational cohort who simply weren't born then and the 1990s style of pious thought and tasteful Modernism has had it. If we're about to live through The Book of Revelations we need a more colourful stock of imagery. The sun and sandals epic films of the 1950s aren't the answer here - but 1980s electronica just might be. There's that gloriously successful compilation Electric Dreams - everything from "Ashes to Ashes" to "Love is a stranger in an open car" - and there's the Woolworths Atari filmic counterpoint; that Eighties Futuristic and dystopian canon, particularly the Terminators and Robocops, which were huge.

All those first-generation computer tricks, all that cyberman stuff looks charming now precisely because it was about dramatising the future before it arrived. The amazing technology those films anticipated - everyday Googling and so forth - is here now and everyone looks dull as ditchwater.

Seat is a Spanish-made car brand of uncertain status owned by Volkswagen. It's not quite clear whether it's got a price positioning against the Korean brands or some more considered niche. Since the Masters in Wolfsburg don't seem to have shown their usual iron grip and clarity of purpose, Seat gets away with some rather odd advertising.

The current Seat campaign for the new Leon looks a lot like Arnievision. It's got a crudely computer-generated Electric Twilight City background, it's got a plinky zithery electronic music track, and a completely absurd way of shooting the Leon as if it was an old American muscle-car (it's probably 6ft long with a 600cc engine), but above all it's got a driver with arms and legs of steel.

As he's driving along the Atari open road to Oz, the bones of his foot and leg morph into stainless steel wires and pistons and his arms resolve into a metal circuit around the steering wheel. It's a 10-year-old boy's power fantasy. "Performance and style redefined", they say and then "Man and Machine as one". Seriously clunky.

How does all this read in translation? In Anglosphere advertising, where spoof, irony and revivalism are native language, this commercial might suggest creative directors were up for reworking the 1980s now. But in Latin Europe, where an awful lot of locally-made advertising still features gravy-dark voice-overs, cute kids and comedy narratives, you might just have to face the terrible thought that they'd only just got there.

Peter@sru.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Media & Advertising Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national business publishi...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

£22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

Guru Careers: Account Executive / Account Manager

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive / Account Manager is ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones