Black Cabs – London’s Taxis

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Any visitor to London cannot fail to notice that aside from the usual array of private cars, bikes/scooters and delivery vans that the streets are punctuated with two of perhaps the World’s most recognizable and iconic vehicles. The red London Bus – see our previous post here that features the New Routemaster Bus – Thomas Heatherwick – and the Black Cabs – London’s Taxis or more properly “Hackney Carriages”.

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It may be just an impression but certain parts of the West End, that are not already bus and taxi only, but fall within the Congestion Charge Zone – and a daily rate of £11.50 – have taken on a new character. They seem to flow better and are sparsely occupied by private vehicles but are dominated by well managed public transport provided by Transport for London (TfL) – see here our piece on the iconic London Transport Roundels –  London Transport roundels  – and the Carriage Office – the body responsible for the Black Cabs.

The Black Cab is undergoing a revolution. The streets are a battleground where private mini-cabs, recently licence-reprieved Uber cars and Black Cabs vie to secure a ride but they reflect a clash of cultures. The Black Cab driver knows where he/she’s going having successfully completed the Knowledge see our previous post here – London A-Z street atlas – The Knowledge  – whilst the mini-cab or Uber drivers world is linked to one of the many digital street services following pre-selected routes that guide the driver to the chosen post code. Simple but not foolproof!

Price is an issue but I tend to prefer the comfort of Black Cabs. However, with respect to those Uber drivers that I have met, the London Cabbie is often overall much better “value”. They tend to be better informed about London, its Mayor and its political life, the perils of supporting one of London’s eleven football teams, the most recent celebrity they carried and the best route to avoid congestion.

Cabbie’s opinions matter. In a recent and highly effective Twitter piece, Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson, the US Ambassador to the UK – probably as a result of looking for someone to go “Sarf of the River” to the new US Embassy in Vauxhall – toured several of the thirteen remaining London’s Green Cabbie’s shelters. The driver’s opinions on Brexit and the US President seem very welcome. US Ambassador Cab Shelter Tour 

A new Black Cab appeared on the streets of London at the end of 2017 competing with the most recent diesel version of the iconic Black Cab, the TX4, that was produced between 2007 and 2017. Called the LEVC “TX” and seen below next to an older TX4, the cab is built in a new Chinese owned factory outside Coventry and combines a 1.5l petrol engine with a 110kW lithium battery driven electric motor. Conforming perfectly to the zeroing of diesel emissions and the promotion of the recharge economy.

 

A recent journey in the new cab, that tend to be rented by Cabbie’s for under £200 per  week on a five year deal, suggests the comfort is still very much there. The new cab’s driver explained the electric motor delivered around 70 to 80 miles on one 50p electricity recharge and whilst the TX leasing arrangement is slightly more costly, the fuel saving is expected to be around £100 per week. Will this bring cab fares more in line with Uber’s prices?

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Other cities around the world have their own distinctive cabs, the canary Yellow Cabs – Medallion Taxi – that have superseded their checker forerunners – in New York, the Black Body and Yellow Doors in Barcelona but in its own right London’s iconic Black Cab – a vehicle designed and built for a single task – should be seen a beacon of security in an unfamiliar city. Just don’t try and flag on done if its yellow roof light is not illuminated – its occupied!

Images used with grateful thanks – Transport For Londons, Daily Telegraph and LEVC TX.

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Iconic TV Advertisements

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As we emerge from the Christmas Season when parlour games and an over-dose of TV co-incide I wanted to pay homage to those moments of TV history that are either so creative, successful or engaging that they allow us to be described as iconic.

There can be little doubting the power of the well-timed TV advertisement to support the marketing efforts of a major brand in a critical buying season. However, there are some commercials that go beyond the marketing mix to become – almost National Treasures – being both iconic and loved by audiences.

Here are a few TV commercials that have an appeal all their own. I make no apology for the nostalgic nature of this collection as, to some extent, the core audience was then less sophisticated. The “short-hand” language of known music to accompany aspirational images is no coincidence.

The Seasonal Campaigns – when Fizzy Drinks Manufacturers and Department Stores corner the run up to Christmas.

Coca Cola Santa

Coca Cola Christmas – “Holidays are Coming” Holidays Are Coming – Coca Cola

The first iteration of the Coca Cola Christmas commercial was aired in 1995 featuring the “Christmas Cravan” of illuminated trucks as devised by agency W. B. Doner and Santa Claus as depicted in 1930’s for Coca Cola by the artist Haddon Sundblom. The song “Wonderful Dream (Holidays are Coming)” was first used for the Coca Cola Christmas advert in 2001.

The Bear and The Hare

Christmas John Lewis – “The Bear and the Hare” The Bear and The Hare

UK Department Store, John Lewis, released their first Christmas advert in 2007 but the £7m campaign in 2013 entitled “The Bear and the Hare” is truly a masterpiece. With its superb Lily Allen soundtrack (her version of Keane’s 2004 single “Somewhere Only We Know”) and meticulous artwork from a team including Aaron Blaise – known for his work with Disney – we see our hero the Hare ensuring that his hibernating friend the Bear wakes up to enjoy Christmas.

Perhaps one of the most iconic seasonable adverts that courted as much controversy as plaudits was Sainbury’s 2104 offering. This was a wonderfully evocative advert that encapsulated not only a documented historical event but made contemporary and relevant.

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The AMV BBDO produced classic harnessed the World War One commenmoration that swept the UK in 2014. The director, Ringan Ledwidge, was keen to engage the support of the Royal British Legion for whom Sainbury’s donated a heathy chunk of the sales of a special chocolate bar that reproduced part of the Tommy Christmas trench rations.

Sainbury’s “Truce” Sainsbury’s “Truce”

The Iconic:

Even if I didn’t think that Levi’s 501s – see my earlier post here – Levi 501’s were the best jeans made I suspect this advert would have converted many to this iconic brand.

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Levis – Nick Kamen Levis 501 – Marvin Gaye

First shown on Boxing Day (26.12) in 1985, it was conceived by John Hegarty and Barabara Noakes of BBH and directored by Roger Lyons. It had the desired effect of making jeans sexy and revived Levis flagging fortunes – it also stimulated the sale of boxer shorts!

Even if Guinness isn’t your beer of choice – see my earlier post here – Aestheticons’ Guide to Iconic European Beers – Part 1 one of the UK’s most favourite commercials ever made was for the Black Stuff.

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Guinness Surfers and Horses

The campaign was devised in 1999 by Abbott Mead Vickers for the Guinness brand and was directed by Jonathan Glazer, who later directed the cult movie “Sexy Beast” starring Ray Winstone. It was shot in Hawaii with one surfer, known as Rusty K, finally conquering the wave. Leftfield’s track “Phat Planet” beats out the inspiration drawn from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick “Ahab says, ‘I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream.'”

When you pursuade a major rock bands to allow you to use one of their songs in support of your first TV comercial, the launch of Windows 95, you have to expect to pay heavily for the priviledge. It is said that The Rolling Stones were paid $3m – for a six month license – but reports suggest that it was money well spent and made Microsoft a household name. Bill Gates apparently had the idea for the commercial from the “Start” button on his pc. The $200m launch was directed by Portland ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy

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Rolling Stones Microsoft – Microsoft – Rolling Stones

The Sexy, Cute and Clever:

Eating a crumbly chocolate bar in a hot bath sound perilous but Cadbury’s managed to turn jeopardy into sexy with a series of adverts in the 1980’s/90s – even if the 1991 version featured an overflowing bath that no doubt caused havoc with the downstairs neighbours…..

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Flake – Bathtime Flake

An altogether more breezy and cute image was created in 1991 by the French Publicis agency featuring a fictional father and daughter in a series of adverts for Renault’s Clio. So successful were the ads that in 1996 a survey suggested that the female lead “Nicole” – a none driver at the time of the first commercial – was more recogniseable than John Major, the then Prime Minister! The sound track to the version shown below – and there were eight ads in total – feature an acoustic recording of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary” played by an old friend, the guitar genius, Martin Taylor.

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Renault Clio – Nicole/Papa Papa & Nicole

Adverts featuring a large numbers of extras that through careful choreography create stunning images fall into a category we call “cleaver”. In 1989 a Saatchi & Saatchi campaign for British Airways saw the combination of very beautifully Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) directed photography, filmed in Utah, with a stunning Malcolm McLaren and Yanni produced classical soundtrack (the Flower Duet from Léo Delibes’ opera “Lakmé”) and you have an iconic advert that’s instantly recognizable.

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British Airways BA Face Commercial

Given the proliferation of media and the understandable pressures on budgets for TV/on-screen adverts, todays advertising gurus need to be a smart as their predecessors to engage an audience quickly and convincingly.

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Image credits with thanks to Coca Cola, BBC, The John Lewis Partnership, Levi Strauss, Guinness, Leftfield, Microsoft, The Rolling Stones, Sainsbury’s, Cadburys/Mondelez and British Airways.