Even though tastes and fashions changes at a “conservative” pace in the hi-fi world, does politically contentious hi-fi adverts being forced to evolve on a much more hectic timescale?
By: Ringo Bones
From the pastoral like veneer of innocence surrounding the post World War II Golden Age of hi-fi of the mid to late 1950s to the rather “flamboyantly themed radicalism” of the 1970s era hi-fi adverts, it seems that in the rather conservative political climes of the hi-fi world, it seems that how hi-fi adverts are themed in congruence with the contemporary concept of what passes as “politically correct” seems to be more hectically paced in comparison to the esoteric “audio engineering terms” used to flogged off the latest in audio gear. After all, when was the last time a revue of a thermionic vacuum tube zero negative feedback single ended triode audio power amplifier carried specifications for transient inter-modulation distortion and slew rate specifications that used to be the domain of high tech solid state amplifiers marketed during the late 1970s and early 1980s? For the benefit of those who might find the “hectic” pace of political fashions in hi-fi adverts that seems to be cleverly designed by Madison Avenue admen and focus groups of interest, here’s my take on it.
Chauvinistically themed hi-fi adverts – when the “hi-fi” business took off during the Golden Age of Stereo, most of the “industry’s” customers where exclusively male and thus the glut of “chauvinistically themed hi-fi adverts” probably ran well until the end of the 1980s. One of the most famous – or notorious – of these adverts were printed back in an August 1962 issue of Stereo Review magazine on an ad for the Fisher 800-B receiver proclaiming it an audio system “even she can operate”; something which doesn’t fly anymore during the “politically-correct 1990s”. But if you consider the 1970s to be the capitalist West’s “Golden Age of Chauvinism”, an ad published in the August 1972 issue of Stereo Review magazine for an Empire speaker advert designed for use in a quadraphonic system (known a surround-sound these days) drives home the point with photos of conspicuously naked women. Even though hi-fi adverts that feature conspicuously naked women could be frowned upon as “too politically incorrect” during the first part of the early 1990s, some hi-fi loudspeaker manufacturers like Energy Loudspeakers and Wharfedale began to feature hi-fi adverts featuring conspicuously naked women by the mid 1990s onwards – though the Energy speaker ads also featured conspicuously naked Asian women and men and the re-release of a “naked” Mercury logo of Western Electric that used to be printed at the back of every AT&T phonebook during the 1950s – but is this as a salute to a Camille Paglia like interpretation of politically correct sexiness in the 1990s? But whether or not you consider “erotically themed” hi-fi adverts an affront to political correctness, it does surface from time to time well into the 21st Century.
Anyone notice those politically-themed adverts that were widely published during the 1990s that seems to virtually vanish in the 21st Century – even on the manufacturers’ websites? Probably the best example is the “No Empire Lasts Forever” advert by hi-fi cable manufacturer Synergistic Research that features a Lenin statue with a noose around its neck. This was a widely published advert that I first saw on the March 1998 issue of Stereophile magazine at the time, but today, the “noose around the neck of a Lenin statue advert” seems to have virtually vanished of the face of the Earth and can’t even be found on the official website of Synergistic Research. Is the advert now politically contentious to “Czar Putin” and the resurgent Russian empire?