Eyup, it were so much better back in the old days.
But actually, was it?
I’m talking pre-1981 before I joined the business and was ‘taught’ what were good ads and bad ads.
Back then it was simpler, for sure; there was nothing like the media bombardment of today, just the three tv channels, of which only one, ITV, ran ads (in the UK).
There were a handful of commercial radio stations, a handful of newspapers and magazines and the ubiquitous billboards.
But even then, it was still imperative to get noticed and remembered.
It’s an interesting mental exercise because I’m recalling ads that I haven’t seen or heard in over 40 years, from a time when I was an impressionable consumer, rather than an ‘expert’, albeit a very young one, unable to afford pretty much everything except the cheaper chocolate bars.
Dave already mentioned a few – that creepy Milk Tray geezer was a particular favourite, but I’d like to expand on the “Martini Is” campaign. As a teenager living in a council tenement, this was the height of glamour; a lifestyle so far away from my own.
The skiing one was my favourite, the cable car, the guy with the white lipstick – I had no idea it was sunblock – and that aerial end scene on the mountain top chalet deck, shot from a helicopter (‘drone’ wasn’t even a word back then).
And the first chance I got after getting a job in London, I went on a skiing trip to Verbier with a bunch of mates, and we didn’t drink Martini.
I also sensed the general consensus in the biz was that this was ‘bad’ advertising, and that the good version, and how it should be done, was the Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins Cinzano campaign.
I also loved this campaign, thought it was hilarious, and the catchphrases (“aaah, getting your head down, sweetie”) we often mimicked in the playground at school. One problem: we all thought it was another campaign for Martini, and whilst we were never going to afford either, I guess the adults who could, were laughing all the way to their Martini bottles.
(Collett Dickenson Pearce)
Staying with the aspiration, Fry’s Turkish Delight. This was exotic beyond our wildest dreams, a chocolate bar only the richest people in the world could eat, a fabulously beautiful woman in the desert is woken by a Lawrence of Arabia-type handsome dude, and there’s a snake, with accompanying rattle and hiss sound. No idea what it all had to do with the stuff we saw on the shelves at the local co-op, but it was shot better than most movies and looked more expensive.
There was a similar campaign for Bounty “They came in search of paradise, and found it in Bounty”.
Eating these bars of chocolate transformed our dull lives into something special. For a moment we imagined we weren’t really hanging around pretending to smoke ciggies and look hard, in subways that smelled of piss.
Much of advertising nowadays leans towards relatability, how does the idea resonate with the target audience, whereas back then, the last thing we wanted advertising to do was reflect our reality.
“They came in search of a dank, stinking subway, and found it, in Bounty” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
There’s a lot to be said for pure escapism, and I think many brands are now poorer for not realizing that.
Aspiration also came with a good dose of irony, and this campaign featuring Lorraine Chase (the art director’s girlfriend I think) shot her to fame. “Nah…Luton Airport” became one of the most memorable catchphrases in UK advertising history.
Like most snot-nosed kids I was into cars and a Maserati Bora was the stuff dreams were made of.
But wait, British Leyland used the same design team to build their new Morris Ital. It bursts out of the garage doors behind a Bora, screeching blindly into the street at full pelt like The Sweeney on a job, and proceeds to drive like an absolute twat, tailgating a Mercedes because, well, it’s just bloody FASTER, and eventually returning back without the police in tow, presumably because they couldn’t keep up. Yes, I want one.
Even though in reality, it was a lump of shite.
They certainly don’t make adverts like this anymore.
Or cars, thankfully.
Humour was always a big thing in UK advertising and The Two Ronnies were always a sure-fire hit and they also did British Leyland.
An example of retail advertising that was bearably enjoyable.
The Benson & Hedges cinema campaign, before Hugh Hudson. I remember being captivated by these little movies; the one I remember most was a team of bank robbers drilling through a thick wall in what looked like a bank.
All the suspense built up to a final shot of the other side of the wall, which was a B&H vending machine on an underground station, as we see the hand reach through and start grabbing the loot. (Collett Dickenson Pearce)
Growing up in the north, we had different advertising to what appeared in London.
John Smith’s Bitter was a brilliant example of work that stopped you getting up to put the kettle on.
Me dad always used to say “ooh I love this advert” as soon as the two groups of blokes walked up to the bar. North vs South one-upmanship at its best.
And me mam always said the same about this one for Pepsi.
That descending guitar note and his look to camera, leading into the longest endline ever, read by DJ Emperor Rosko, pure genius. Kids at school rapping your product endline, it doesn’t get any better than that.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the John Smith’s and the Pepsi campaigns were both written by someone I’d never heard of, and wouldn’t meet until a few years later, who would become the biggest influence on my career – Dave Trott.
It was shortly after he hired me as the first creative at GGT, that I heard that Bergasol radio ad.
It’s the only one here that ran after I’d joined advertising, and even back then it caused a stir.
It’s a brilliantly simple idea brilliantly well executed, and it’s about as inappropriate as anything would be considered nowadays and would literally melt Twitter.
That said, there are a few voice memes going around right now about vaccines and covid using exactly the same concept.
Back to before I got a job, and another superbly filmed and evocative piece.
Of course I didn’t know who Ridley Scott was, but then no one else outside the game did either.
“Get it inside yer boy, and you’ll be going up that hill as fast as you come down”.
I didn’t need to look at the ad again to remember that, it was nailed deep into my psyche, almost 50 years later.
If that’s not good advertising then I really don’t know what is.
(Hovis – Collett Dickenson Pearce)
Growing up in Britain in the 70s you could not ignore the PG chimps (well it was also my initials).
This one was probably the most aped (groan, I know): “coo-ee Mr Shifter, light refreshment?” and “Daaaad, do you know the piano’s on my foot?” “You hum it, son, I’ll play it…” It took me years for the penny to drop on that joke, I was a slower learner.
And this one too – for Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers, although I think most of us thought it was for Cadbury’s Fudge. The little brat’s evil grin at the end perfectly mirrored us.
And THAT Coca-Cola ad.
Ask anyone who works at Coke and they’ll tell you this is the ad they’re always trying to beat.
It was so far ahead of its time in the joy of diversity and different cultures, I don’t know why they just don’t do a Hollywood and remake it?
I have no idea if this Coke campaign ever troubled the D&AD juries, but I don’t think the millions of drinkers who loved it really cared.
“Dum, dum, dum, dum, Esso Blue” went the jingle.
Esso Blue was a paraffin-oil for heaters. And they also did a song.
Without hearing it again, these are the words:
They asked me how I knew
It was Esso Blue
I of course replied
With lower grade one buys
Smoke gets in your eyes
That’s what I call an earworm, sticks with you for decades!
In fact, I’ve still got the little keychain they gave out with each purchase.
Worth a few bob on e-bay apparently.
Next, a Disclaimer: I didn’t need to be taught this kind of work was crap – it was just plain irritating.
I wasn’t in the market for floor and bath cleaners, so I didn’t buy Flash, but if I was, I would have made an extra special effort to not buy even more of it.
When I eventually joined advertising, I learned this was called 2CK advertising. If you don’t understand what the acronym meant, keep it that way.
I’ll finish with some print and posters:
I remember a Premium Bonds campaign of cartoons (I kept them Dave, but they’re at home in Bangkok unfortunately).
An example was a tennis player waiting for a serve, and he had a double-headed racquet in each hand and another between his teeth, with a look of gritted determination on his face (cartoon remember) and the line was “The more you’ve got, the better your chances of winning.”
I liked the Heineken refreshes campaign but I always preferred the posters to the tv.
I remember seeing these all over Yorkshire, and the Joe Jordan one in particular was popular as he was a hard-bastard Leeds player and well known for having no front teeth.
(Collett Dickenson Pearce)
I loved this Youth Opportunities work.
Not that it actually offered us youths any opportunities, I just thought it was an incredibly clever idea, and the way the pay-off line was discreetly placed under the typographic was just brilliant art direction (although I had no idea what art direction was at the time).
(Saatchi & Saatchi)
I didn’t read a lot when I was young, but I did read a lot of these Rolex ads.
Again, they were a window to a world we could only imagine, a world of excitement and adventure, a far cry from the bike-sheds.
Thor Heyerdahl was a big deal when we were at school so this was as good an endorsement to an amazing lifestyle as you could get.
And yes, I did buy a Rolex as soon as I could afford one, although James Bond movies probably played a significant part too.
This campaign for White Horse whisky was all over the streets where I lived.
I loved the graphic simplicity and the fact that you couldn’t mistake it for any other brand (except maybe White Horse hairdryers if there was such a thing).
I loved the fact they could do it without even the product shot or brand name, which is not something I wouldn’t advocate now, but was groundbreaking in the 70s.
This was a great example of BRANDING in its truest sense. Not branding where you make sure the brand name is mentioned five times, and at least once in the first five seconds of a TV ad; no, branding in the sense that the brand name is inextricable from the concept. That is, if you took the brand name out, it simply wouldn’t make sense.
It’s old-style now, like the one for Jacob’s CLUB chocolate bars: “If you like a lotta chocolate on your biscuit, join our CLUB”.
You could never mix that up with Penguin bars, it just wouldn’t make any sense.
Trotty taught me that, with “You can break a brolly but you can’t K-nacker a K-nirps” and “Hello Tosh, Gotta Toshiba”.
We took that learning through DFGW and produced some spectacularly successful campaigns.
A lost art, I think.
Or maybe I had dodgy taste.
Or maybe it was popular taste.