Friday, March 16, 2012

Retro Friday: RIP, Encyclopaedia Britannica Edition

It was yet another sign of the times this week, as the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that it would no longer publish its hefty volumes. We had an old set from the 1960s in my house, and athough I didn't use it (it already seemed woefully out of date in the 1980s), it was still interesting to look at from time to time. But time marches on, and as I joked on Twitter, historians centuries from now are probably going to wonder why civilization's written record suddenly halts around 2025.

By the 1990s, the Encyclopaedia Britannica was already on a downward slide, and even filed for bankruptcy in the latter part of the decade. But before that, you probably remember these series of sarcastic spots for the books, targeting the cynical Gen X crowd. That's humorist Stan Freberg's son, who in this spot above whines that his computer can't help him with his school work -- and he's got a report due tomorrow on space!

Here's the follow-up ad. "Remember me? I had a report due on space." He got a B+ on his paper -- because he crammed too much information in. At least now teachers can easily figure out when you're simply cutting and pasting from Wikipedia.

Another spot, this time the kid gets more dramatic.

Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, because it's an even more meta, cynical commercial about being inside a TV commercial. A second voiceover, reminiscent of MTV's Daria, chides the kid in the spot, as he's busy chiding the original voice over guy. Did they sell many encyclopedias because of these ads? I don't know, but they sure ran quite a bit on cable. (Cable spots were much cheaper back then.)

Finally, a parody of the Encyclopaedia Britannica ads from Seattle's "Almost Live."

1 comment:

Jim said...

That is Stan Freberg himself, who also wrote the ads, as the voiceover guy. I didn't realize this until Rhino Records' Stan Freberg box set came out in the late '90s; these ads are included on the VHS of Freberg commercials that's in the set.

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