When We Was Rad:
Skateboard History from UK Vintage Magazine

Slam City: If They Have Time to Risk Their Necks…

Slam City: If they have time to risk their necks, they have time to learn the pianoThis is one of my favourite adverts of all time. It produced a roar of delight when I first saw it, and it still does.
One of the earlier publishers of the magazine complained of a Volkswagen advert offering free badges to people who might otherwise be inclined to steal them from cars that it served no purpose, because these people would not (yet) be buying Volkswagen cars. By that measure, whether an advert appealed to people working on a magazine rather than the people buying the magazine is irrelevant — and the fact that it can still raise a big smile, even less so.
But the wit and skill with which this advert was devised and executed also perfectly communicated a sense of Slam City’s status as the de facto coolest (for want of a better word) skateboard shop in London in a way which could be understood by all the different audiences who saw it. The understatement distinguished them in masterful way from the more manic approach of M Zone (ignore the one in the current issue and consider the M Zone advert from 1987 instead) and put some useful blue water between the two for anyone who did not appreciate their two different markets.
Did it sell any skateboards at the time? Possibly. Did it contribute to Slam City’s long term survival by helping position themselves in a particular place at the top of the market, out of the reach of immediate competition? Yes. This was a place of pilgrimage for many, many skateboard generations.


7 responses to “Slam City: If They Have Time to Risk Their Necks…”

  1. i was jsut wondering after you have finsihed the back log of adverts that apeared in the magazine if you would consider doing some more skate related stuff…you seem to have gottwen of the beatn track as it were. what about all the munster copms you used to cever?,any esa, or old backyard comps that you used to find, they were far more intresting than reading about old adverts for some shops that still exist and some that dont..sorry if im being problematic but i just see that there was so much more to the magazine than the adverts

  2. I agree. A lot of the adverts are boring (though not this one).

    But it’s not a case of finishing off a backlog: what I’m doing at the moment is working through whichever issue a page at a time.

    For the next issue I’m going to stick to that plan, but I would welcome more suggestions from everyon about how else to do it.

    One of the considerations for me is that it’s simpler (and causes less wear and tear) to take one issue out of the file at a time and then scan my way through it. So I’m reluctant to cherry-pick specific features from all over the place.

    I could stop doing the adverts, however — except some people like them.

  3. I think this advert is extraordinary. As a graphic esigner in an ad agency, I am far more aware of the techiques and strategies employed by advertisers than I was at the age of fourteen (which probably accounts for how I have absolutely no recollection of this ad). It leaps out like a sore thimb and is in my adult opinion, very effective, but as it doesn’t feature a colour photo of an airborne, gurning skater pulling some outragous tweaked air, I wonder how effective it was at the time.

    There is such a thing as being too clever for the audience. And that certainly included me.

  4. my opologies..damn my incorrect spelling!, 31 i did go to school i promise!…sorry i didnt mean that the adverts are boring its jsut i remeber so much more of the magazine than the adverts, you always seemed to find spots that were diferent from your own home grown spots or you done features on diffrent countrys..quite forward for the scene and era of skating. then there wer the interviews with not only english pros, but some americans..i know i have asked you beofer about the hawk interview but there were other u.s skaters that you managed to interview..btw i do remeber the ad for speed freaks vid and watching it…nostalgia isnt that bad..all im saying is less of the adverts and more of the features that you done please

  5. Rogue: for the time being I’ll carry on doing the entire magazine each time — adverts included. Even the ones which seem to have no relevance to most people help bring back the feeling of the time. The comps and the scene reports will all appear in time if I can keep this up.
    SgtPartridge: time certainly changes things. When I started working on skate magazines as a twenty-something I was convinced that I knew exactly what should/should not appear and bent the ears of those in charge accordingly. Later I found myself engaged in endless, more reasoned, debate with yet another in a long string of publishers. Then for the last few years I found myself sounding more like the publishers and it was my turn to have my ears bent.
    A dozen years later I find myself moving back towards the position I had at an earlier stage — but based on a different perspective and taking a very long term view.
    It all keeps changing. It’s all interesting. What happens on this site is yet another phase. I keep learning!

    One of the things which stikes me is that I should try to do something to make everyone’s comments more prominent on the site. In its default state most blogging software tends to place the emphasis on the original ‘post’, with the comments relegated to a secondary status, and that’s not really the way I’d like to see things. I’m the one who can supply the scans (and all the text sometimes) plus an insight into what was going on behind the scenes, but it’s very interesting when we hear how some of this material was involved in other people’s lives. Until recently that wasn’t so easy.

  6. now this magazine is what i remeber!…god it takes me back so much to look at the feature if only on the front page for now of how to be the greatest skater in 30days and so fourth. im sorry if my comments have been taken the wrong way tlb..i only meant it in the sense that there was so much more to the magazine apart from adverts..anyways onto another issue that im sure we will al remeber with fondness.please carry on

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