Sunday, 7 July 2013

Nostalgia in Advertising: Lock S-Foils in Attack Position.

As a teenager, my first computer console was a Nintendo 64. It was 1998 and one of my first games for the system was a title called Rogue Squadron. It was based on the Star Wars series; you were Luke Skywalker, whizzing around the galaxy in an X-Wing and shouting, 'Lock S-Foils in attack position' at the television. I was all for it.

I caught the last few minutes of Star Wars: A New Hope on the TV yesterday (the first film in the original series). The rebel base was gearing up for an attack on the Death Star and extras were running around, pumping fuel into the fleet before it embarked on the suicide mission. A panning shot over the base show four, maybe five, ships about to fly off into combat; the rebels were ridiculously outmatched. The scene reminded me of the beginning of each mission on Rogue Squadron; the option to choose a ship from a virtual hanger bay.


My brain sank its teeth into the image and suddenly I'm sixteen again; sitting in front of a small television (one with a built-in VCR), playing Rogue Squadron in the bedroom I grew up in. I could picture the posters on the walls, the colour of the carpet, see the signed West Bromwich Albion football sitting on the shelf. I thought about people that I used to know and I wondered if the corner shop at the bottom of the street was still there. 

Back in 2013, the X-Wing fighters took off. Han Solo saved the day. Chewbacca still didn't get his medal.

As individuals, we romanticise the past. We look back and see a better time. And to quote the sage wisdom of Mary Schmich, 'You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.'

Using nostalgia in advertising isn't anything new; brands have been exploiting memories and feelings about the past to generate sales for decades. More recently, Microsoft did it for Internet Explorer (albeit for an American audience) last year and VW Polo did a decent job in the ad below. P&G brands are also repeat offenders for this sort of tactic.

Our penchant for nostalgia gives brands the opportunity to link their products to our rose-tinted view of history. We remember playing old video games until 2am because there wasn't school the next day. We remember the first road trip after passing our driving test and we remember the make of the car that look us there. In the words of Don, taken from the best scene to be filmed in Mad Men, 'nostalgia takes us to a place where we ache to go again.'

All this is a very convoluted way of saying that I spent £10 on a fifteen-year old video game on Amazon yesterday and I'm ok with it. Lock S-foils in attack position.


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