If marketing continues to fly under the radar, it's going to experience a very unpleasant crash

Jeremy Bullmore

Back in 1955, starbursts were a sort of communications prophylactic. The Television Bill had been lengthily and fiercely debated: it was granted more Parliamentary time than any other Bill of the 20th century. When finally enacted in 1954, it broke the BBC's broadcasting monopoly and 'independent' television (neither 'sponsored' nor 'commercial', please note) became a reality. It was to be funded entirely by advertising. With one curious exception, the only permitted form of advertising was to be spot advertising – and elaborate measures were built into the Act to make sure that there was clear and unambiguous distinction between advertisement and programme content. Unlike the US system, there was to be no blurring of authority, no word from our sponsors. The starburst was a legal requirement – a split second of spiralling graphic that deftly distinguished commercial from programme, and even commercial from commercial. British viewers were left in no doubt that they were watching an advertisement; and, despite its proximity, programme content could remain entirely uncontaminated.