Behind the Iron Curtain part 17 – Advertisements

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.

For today I had to pick a theme that is really, really short.

And there really is not much to say about this, astounding as it might sound in today’s time. Nowadays commercial advertisements are everywhere – not only on TV and in magazines, but in newspapers, on billboards along the roads, on buildings and, of course, on the internet. And from what I gather, they were very common in the West in the past too, minus the internet.

However behind the Iron Curtain, commercial advertisements were very nearly unknown. The only place I remember ever seeing them was on TV between the programs – but never in the programs. Such a thing as an advertisement in the middle of a movie or a tv-series episode was unheard of.

Another typical feature of the advertisements that I remember was that they were product-oriented, not brand oriented. Since all brands were state-owned, and all production was centrally planned, there were no brands that would compete to sell the same product. Further the advertisements were so dull, that I only remember a single one – for milk. A glass of milk stood on a table, a man walks up to it, drinks it, and puts the empty glass back to a background of singing chorus “For your beauty and your health. What? Of course milk, milk, milk!”

Where I live we did pick up West German TV, so we knew that things look differently over there, but not knowing German, we did not know how different they are and what lies in store for us. This is one of the rare instances when I think that the “good ol’ times” actually were, you know, good.


  1. kestrel says

    Must say I hate ads too. And I used to work for a newspaper which is funded by ads. STILL. I don’t mind them so much when they stay quietly out of the way and just sit there, but this BS about internet ads jumping around, flashing etc. drives me nuts. In fact I will not look at a page where I am forced to see ads like that.

    I do see a problem in a country putting out ads saying, for example, “milk is good for you, you should drink it” because in fact (and I say this as a dairy farmer) milk is not good for everyone. On the other hand that is a real strength, not having ads everywhere you look. Funny how we seem to go from one extreme to the other.

  2. rq says

    When ads did come along, they found odd places to put them. There’s at least one Soviet-era Latvian movie that I know of that has not product placements in it, but actual 10-second commercials. For example, the husband and wife are driving through a mud puddle with their motorollers, when suddenly, in mid-splash, the frame freezes and you get some text about how awesome this brand of motorollers is. Or, the main characters pass by a post, and instead of following them, the camera pans in to a poster on a lamppost advertising, I think, beer. (My memory is fuzzy, saw the movie ages ago, but it was hilarious.)

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