An Ariston TV spot from the early 1990s

19.36, Friday 23 Oct 2020

It’s Friday evening so nothing highbrow. Time to share one of my favourite TV ads.

This ad is for Ariston washing machines and it’s from the early 90s. It’s a stylised domestic scene where characters enter, perform their bit, and exit. Only each character is on a loop, all differently timed, and over the ad (the long version runs longer than 2 minutes) the layers build and build.

Watch Ariston On And On on YouTube.

I love it because it plays with polychronic time, it’s like a Michel Gondry music video or a Punchdrunk show. It’s dense and visually compelling. I can’t look away.

I discovered from the YouTube comments two things:

The chiptune-style music is, bizarrely enough, the theme from the Gameboy version of RoboCop.

Second: the ad is “based” on a video art piece called Tango by Zbigniew Rybczyński from 1980. Watch Tango here. (I say “based” because you never know with marketing where you are on the spectrum between “commissioned the original artist” and “ripped off”.)

It’s all there: the single domestic room with the polychronic characters. The collage/cut-up feel to it all. Yet this Rybczyński piece is from 1980 – that must be practically inventing what the medium of recorded video is all about.

The Ariston spot is still gorgeous though.

Here’s another Ariston commercial on YouTube which sounds like an accented Ian Dury & the Blockheads. It somehow manages to pull off rhyming Three hundred servicing persons and Mega strong construct-i-on.

TV ads used to be art.

Update 26 Oct. Peter Gasston tells me on Twitter that the music is that second Ariston ad was based on the song Da Da Da, by German New Wave band, Trio. It’s awesome. Watch it here.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it by email or on social media. Here’s the link. Thanks, —Matt.