Switched-on advertisers ready for a rave

RAVE culture is forcing advertisers to rethink the way they try to sell to young people. According to research for advertising agencies, young people of the Nineties are less materialistic, more creative and more media-literate than five years ago.

Golden Wonder's latest Pot Noodle commercial, suspended by the Independent Television Commission last week for possibly causing epileptic fits, was one attempt to adapt to the change. 'What's better to consume with an intense-tasting snack than intense footage?' an apparently lobotomised television presenter asks as he recovers from the computer-generated psychedelia that accompanied his first taste of the snack.

Andrew Harrison, editor of Select magazine, has followed the new vogue in British advertising. 'It's a nod to rave culture, without being too slavish to the form,' he said.

Beginning with the 'Madchester' explosion of 1987, rave culture has touched the lives of more under-25s than all the previous youth cults put together. Research by Cowan Kemsley Taylor, an advertising agency formed by a breakaway from Saatchi & Saatchi, suggests that a million people now go to licensed raves each week.

The agency claims that rave has changed 'young people's frames of reference' and that it is time the advertising world woke up to its potential. Ever since the New Seekers taught the world to sing - and buy Coke - advertisers have plundered the music industry for inspiration. In the Eighties, Nick Kamen removed his Levi 501s in a laundrette to Marvin Gaye's 'I heard it on the grapevine'.

Beyond that, companies have never been afraid to bolt on to their products the trappings of the latest youth trend. Two years ago, Wrangler deployed the Bronx rapper K Bazz in a swirling, hand-held, black-and-white television commercial and last year Rice Krispies featured cartoon rappers.

But with rave culture, the talk is less of tacking on graphics and soundtracks and more of tapping into the change in attitudes of young people. Charlie Sampson, a board account director at Cowan Kemsley Taylor, explains: 'When you speak to young people in research they talk much more about how they feel about something rather than how it looks. They are less overtly image-conscious than they were four or five years ago.

'If you walked into a club in the Eighties, stereotypically the girls would be dancing around their handbags while the guys were 'Araldited' to the walls. Now the guys are dancing with each other. The barriers have come down. People are much more open with each other. If you asked someone for a sip of their water they used to say, 'Sod off'. Now they say, 'Sure, no problem.'

'The received wisdom of how to market to young people - which is to be very stylish, very modern, very clever - is outdated. It is now more important to be relevant. Creativity comes at a premium.'

Most observers are pretty clear on what advertisers should not do to exploit the rave scene. Mr Harrison says: 'You can't tap into rave culture by putting a mad acid-house track on a commercial for a cereal or by dressing up the Gold Blend couple in Lycra. That is precisely the kind of thing that rave culture has taught kids to distrust.'

Commercials that are performing well include Tango, the 'Reg' campaign for Embassy Regal cigarettes and the 'ravey' Pot Noodles.