My top 10 TV ads.

Written by
Elly Woolston
December 02, 2010

When I was a child growing up in the early 70s, my mother limited my brother and me to an hour of TV a day – and it had to be the BBC! The rest of the time, we were encouraged to put on our hats and coats and go outdoors and use our imaginations.

Being limited to an hour of TV a day manifested itself in two behaviour traits. First, my brother and I would channel-hop from BBC to ITV as soon as my mother went out of the sitting room and into the kitchen. It was less about wanting to watch Magpie in preference to watching Valerie Singleton use her 'sticky back plastic' on Blue Peter and more about a burning desire to watch the ads on ITV.

We would take it in turns to sneak up to the big box, (no remote controls in those days) and try to quietly change the channel. We did it to the mime of the chap in the R Whites 'secret lemonade drinker' advertisement. This was a firm favourite of ours, especially as my father had striped pyjamas just like the man in the ad.

The second effect of this one hour TV 'ration' was that we became sponges and devoured every precious second we were allowed to watch that big, ugly box. I absorbed the TV programmes and ads and held them fondly in my heart – as I still do to this day. I knew the lines, the music and chanted the slogans like the fanatic I was, and indeed still am.

Now I could happily give someone a 'run for their money' on Mastermind if the specialist subject was TV ads of the 70s and 80s.

When I recently became the proud owner of a dreamy iPhone my first priority was to load my favourite TV ads onto it. On my long and often tedious commute, I cheer myself up by watching them.

Here are my top 10.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I thank the clever teams who made these ads and, in so doing, made my childhood and adulthood all the richer.

1. Budweiser – whassup?

I love this as it is a brand talking to its target audience in the way they talk to each other. Inspired and it had quite a cult following. ‘True!’

2. Cadbury’s gorilla – a glass and a half full of joy

It is surprising and engaging and when this ad came out in 2007, in the space of a fortnight, 58,000 households took the time to watch a long version by hitting their red buttons. Also Cadbury Schweppes reported a growth in revenue that year of five per cent. Is this a coincidence or not?

3. Carling Black Label – the sunbed ad

I defy anyone who has travelled not to resonate with this. It is superb as it captures how our German friends love to 'hog a sun bed'. It is such a rich mix of cultural insight, humour, clever use of music and is 'spot on' with its cast selection.
It still makes me smile every time I see it.

4. Guinness horse surfer

I find this ad made by AMV truly invigorating. It has a beautiful script and is a work of art whichever way you look at it.
Good things come to those who.....

5. Hamlet photo booth

This ad was based on a comedy routine developed by Gregory Fisher, Colin Gilbert and Philip Differ on ‘Naked Video’, a Scottish comedy TV series. The skit was then adapted at CDP, the advertising agency, who made this. The facial expressions, the neck tie, the wit and then the smug smile and wispy smoke at the end. I love it.

6. Volkswagen Beetle snow plough

This is about the spoken word. I love this as it celebrates the art of storytelling. It celebrates the Volkswagen brand in such a clever way. Here is the story.

‘Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snow plough drives to the snow plough?

This one drives a Volkswagen.

So you can stop wondering.’

7. Hovis – the last 122 years

This ad has so many interesting nuances, stories within stories; no matter how many times you watch it there is something else you spot. It is beautifully crafted. ‘Hovis – as good today as it has always been.’

8. Sugar Puffs - tell them about the honey mummy

‘I love my mummy. I love my honey’.

The lines, the monster hugging his mummy, the table falling to the ground – it makes me rock with laughter every time I see it.

9. R.Whites - a secret lemonade drinker.

So much sex appeal in one pair of pyjamas! Great lyrics too.

10. For mash get Smash

This features Martians laughing at earthlings for peeling potatoes with their metal knives and boiling them for twenty of their minutes.

The script is fantastic, as is the jingle. Indeed it was so popular when it ran that the Martians actually received fan mail and the agency who did the ad (now known as BMP DDB) had to prepare special literature to reply to the fans.

It is my all-time favourite.

About the author: Elly Woolston

Elly Woolston

Elly Woolston is managing director, DMS, UK.

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