My favourite TV ads

Written by
Frances Hurst
February 01, 2011

Jamie Oliver wouldn’t have approved, but in 1980 I was enticed into the wonderful world of marketing by an enthusiastic young graduate who was about to launch a product called Crazy Milk on an unsuspecting public. I met her and was promptly as hooked on the idea of working with brands as her young customers were about to be on a cocktail of additives.

I spent a very happy decade in this world – the last five of which were spent developing new brands for the booze company Diageo. Of course, not many of our cocktails ever saw the light of day – and I’m sure that the world is poorer for the lack of Topaz, Taranagi and Soranzo. However, along the way I picked up a few of what we now call transferable skills and they became my passport into the thoroughly more rewarding – and dare I say more ethical – world of the voluntary sector.

So my ad choices for SOFII are well and truly stuck in the eighties – and I make no apology for that. In my opinion this was the golden era of TV advertising. With only four TV channels to choose from (which already seems hard to believe), the latest blockbuster TV ads were the hot topic of conversation around the coffee machine. And we were all still on full caffeine in those days.

One of the key ingredients of a successful eighties ad campaign was a long-running theme. Like the Nescafe Gold Blend couple who were always running out of coffee. Would they or wouldn’t they (get it together)? So my ad choices draw heavily on this genre. I hope something in my selection ignites a spark of inspiration in you. And it is, of course, completely additive free. Enjoy!

Here is my selection:

1. Heineken refreshes the parts…

One of the most famous – and consistently amusing – ad campaigns of the eighties was for Heineken. The copywriters were past masters at tapping into popular culture and the more we laughed, the more Heineken we bought. The first ad below is for TV, the second for cinema. Classics!

2. Lipsmackin’ Pepsi

If you want to go one better than a catchphrase, you need a clever tongue twister of a catchphrase. Every school kid was desperate to look cool by memorising this one. It goes back a little further, but I still love it. It’s Pepsi.

3. VW Golf – mystery squeaking noise

When it came to the ad campaign we all worshipped in the eighties marketing world, there was no contest. It had to be the Volkswagen Golf. This episode in their long-running series was the pinnacle. Oh, the production values! Oh, the superb reinforcement of brand values! Three decades later, it’s only the car itself that looks dated.

4. Shake n’ Vac

Finally, this ad was dead naff ¬– yet it was also dead cheap and really annoying as you couldn’t get the jingle out of your head. With brand values like that, who better to introduce the brand to a whole new generation, 30 years on, than Jedward!


About the author: Frances Hurst

Frances Hurst

Frances Hurst is passionate about charities (and birds). She is co-founder of Birdsong Charity Consulting, which helps charities work more effectively with their people. She is a trustee of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and spent the 1990s working as marketing director at the UK’s RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

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