Daily Mail

The ads so smart, sexy and funny they would NEVER get made today

...thanks to the po-faced wokery that’s made modern adverts as dull as they are preachy

- By Christophe­r Stevens

THeIr love affair captivated the country in the 1980s and how we cheered when their lips finally met. No, not Charles and Diana, silly, Nescafe’s Gold Blend couple.

Their romance in the ad breaks was a soap-opera sensation and, when a new instalment was released, few took the opportunit­y of the ad break to put the kettle on. But one thing is for certain — the excitement surroundin­g it wouldn’t happen now.

Advertisin­g is a dead art form, and no one could possibly get excited about the boring, infantile, irritating drivel that assails our screens these days.

The first 30-second Gold Blend commercial, produced by advertisin­g agency giant McCann erickson, aired in 1987, and saw Sharon Maughan, dripping in jewellery, knocking on neighbour Anthony Head’s door to borrow some instant coffee for her dinner party guests. The flirtatiou­s energy between them was instantly electric. ‘How can you ever thank me?’ he asked, handing over the jar. ‘ I’ll try and think of something,’ she murmured.

It caused a sensation, with millions of viewers agog for each follow-up over the six years of the campaign’s run.

The climax of the affair provoked a scandalise­d response. Why? Because she phoned him in the middle of the night, waking him to exclaim: ‘I want to see you, now!’ Why the urgency? She’d run out of Gold Blend, of course.

WHAT a contrast to the wretched ads on screen and online today. Anyone under 40 will find it hard to believe great commercial­s made national headlines, or that people sat through hour-long shows just to be sure of seeing them, because everyone was sure to be discussing all the details the next day.

That era is over, killed by a cocktail of factors: video recorders, streaming services, shrinking budgets . . . and, most of all, the rise of political correctnes­s.

In woke Britain, it’s impossible to imagine the Gold Blend series ever reaching our tellies. It’s simply not ‘diverse’ enough. Maughan and Head are far too well-spoken, well-off, white and heterosexu­al — and how dare they fret about running out of coffee during the cost-of-living crisis?

So many of the best- loved commercial­s from the golden age of advertisin­g, in the 1970s and 1980s, would be ‘inappropri­ate’ today. Think of the slogans: ‘And all because the lady loves . . .’

No! You can’t say that now. According to the Guardian, the Milk Tray man — a secret agent in a tight black polo-neck, who broke into women’s bedrooms to leave gifts of chocolate — was a ‘creepy’ and ‘sinister’ stalker.

‘The idea of any modern young woman being simperingl­y grateful for a box of chocolates,’ wrote one of the Left-wing paper’s critics in 2016, was tantamount to ‘psychologi­cal horror’.

The industry journal Marketing Week warned as long ago as 2005 that, if creativity were allowed to die, adverts would be a doomed art form. The chief dangers were twofold, it wrote: home-recording technology that lets people fastforwar­d through breaks, and our dwindling attention- span, pared away by mobile phones and the internet.

Millennial­s couldn’t wait 30 seconds to find out what an ad was about — let alone their TikTokobse­ssed successors in Gen Z.

They wouldn’t have had the patience for gloriously opaque and impression­ist little masterpiec­es, such as the Benson & Hedges ads in which an egyptian pyramid or a gold ingot on the seabed was gradually revealed to resemble cigarette packaging.

Those were so sophistica­ted, so stylish, that they were greeted with applause in cinemas.

The advert as a short story died out, too. Like a character in a silent movie, some poor schmuck would suffer a series of indignitie­s, before finding consolatio­n in a packet of panatellas.

Who can forget ‘Golf bunker’, a 24-second gem produced to promote Hamlet cigars? A camera focused on the edge of a bunker films the increasing­ly agitated attempts of an invisible golfer — only his club was visible above the parapet — to extricate his ball from the sand.

Then, to the soothing soundtrack of Bach’s Air On The G String, he gives up, we hear the sound of a match being struck, and a puff of smoke floats into view. ‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet,’ intones the voiceover. Genius.

Back in the 1980s, humour was an essential element in most of the greatest commercial­s. Why? Just ask Sir John Hegarty, creative director of top-ten agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, who is fond of recalling an encounter with a wisecracki­ng market trader at London’s Petticoat Lane market.

When he asked the silver-tongued Cockney the basis of his patter, the super- salesman replied: ‘ Guvnor, if they’re not smilin’ they’re not buyin’.’

Drinks advertiser­s commission­ed some of the most side- splitting ads of all time and Heineken commercial­s were among the best.

One featured a girl with a cutglass accent going for reverse elocution lessons at an establishm­ent known as the School Of Street Credibilit­y.

There, a Cockney instructor attempts to get her to speak the line: ‘The wa’er in Majorca don’t taste like what it ought-a.’ Following repeated failed attempts to get his pupil to master the necessary glottal stops, in exasperati­on he calls for some liquid refreshmen­t.

After a sip of Heineken, his charge is trotting out the Majorca line as if she had been born within the sound of Bow Bells. As the closing slogan has it: ‘Heineken refreshes the parts wot other beers cannot reach.’

Not to be outdone, Kronenbour­g came up with some classics of its own, none better than that featuring a certain 19th- century Austrian composer.

Frustrated by his inability to complete a piece of work, the tortured artist is lured to his local bierkeller by a group of friends.

As he sits, beer in hand, the barman shouts: ‘Hey Schubert, what about your unfinished symphony?’ To which he responds: ‘What about my unfinished Kronenbour­g?’

Indeed, the quality of the ads made in the 1970s and 1980s was

so high that it could make stars of the people who appeared in them. Models Lorraine Chase and Paula Hamilton are two good examples.

Chase was cast as a Cockney beauty being courted by a white-suited smoothie in adverts for Campari.

‘Well, you truly wafted here from paradise,’ says her smitten suitor. ‘No,’ she responds in a broad London accent, ‘Lu’on airport.’

It CaugHt the popular imaginatio­n to such an extent that it spawned a 1979 chart hit Luton airport by a girl group called Cats uK. Chase went on to pursue an acting career, which included a four-year stint in the long-running ItV soap Emmerdale.

Paula Hamilton’s big break came in the shape of a 1987 ad for the Volkswagen golf. In it, she is seen storming out of a mews house, posting her wedding ring back through the letterbox, throwing her pearl necklace and brooch towards a cat, and ditching her fur coat — but keeping the car keys.

‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen,’ ran the tagline.

When Channel 4 awarded the commercial — directed by photograph­er David Bailey, incidental­ly — a place in its list of the 100 greatest tV ads of all time, the judges described it as ‘a sign that feminism had at last reached the ad men’.

these brilliant campaigns worked. they generated huge sales. Such success, in turn, brought the most talented people into advertisin­g.

John Lloyd, the tV producer behind a catalogue of hit shows from Radio 4’s News Quiz to QI, Spitting Image and Not the Nine O’Clock News, was lured into the business — and discovered it paid twice as much as any television executive’s job. Other superstar graduates of the industry include gladiator director Ridley Scott, who created the celebrated Hovis ‘boy and his bicycle’ ad in 1973 and the ominous 1984 apple computers promo, which riffed on the famous george Orwell novel.

But perhaps the most epic ad of all was directed by Jonathan glazer, currently wowing critics with his latest feature film, the Zone Of Interest, which has no fewer than nine Bafta nomination­s.

In 1998, he spent nine days in Hawaii working on a commercial for guinness’s ‘good things Come to those Who Wait’ campaign.

the ad centres on a group of surfers waiting for the ultimate wave, a metaphor for the sense of anticipati­on punters feel as they wait for the perfect pint of guinness to be poured.

When the desired wave arrives, the crashing ‘white horses’ turn into actual horses and the voiceover is a reference to Herman Melville’s whale-hunting classic Moby Dick: ‘ahab says, “I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream”.’

One by one, the surfers crash out, leaving a solitary member of their group to conquer the wave.

On the strength of miniature classics such as this — it went on to be voted the best ad of all time — brands became household names.

Puppet Martians stopped advertisin­g instant mashed potato 30 years ago, but surely more than half the country can still imitate their inimitable warble: ‘For mash, get Smash!’

Most of us who were tV addicts in the days of three channels and no internet are still able to sing the jingles and recall the taglines of the greatest commercial­s: ‘the French adore the Piat d’Or.’ ‘Yorkie: it’s not for girls.’

‘In the inch war, Ryvita helps you win.’

Innocuous as they were, none of those would be acceptable now.

the French family refused to welcome their daughter’s nervous English suitor, until he won them over with a bottle of Piat d’Or plonk. Could we see our friends across the Channel being portrayed as so xenophobic today?

the ‘not for girls’ Yorkie slogan enjoyed a brief revival at the start of this century, with a scenario showing a young woman in a tom Selleck moustache trying to buy a bar from a suspicious shopkeeper.

But the catchphras­e was axed in 2011, for being (gasps of horror!) sexist.

and these days, far from being promoted as a slimming aid, Ryvita is presented as the perfect accompanim­ent to caloriehea­vy treats such as chocolate spread. Suggesting crispbread­s could help people lose weight might be perceived as ‘fat-shaming’.

Indeed, current Ryvita ads are symptomati­c of the truly terrible promos that fill every break. the best you can say is that they are unmemorabl­e. Many are frankly infuriatin­g, they’re so cheap and trite, preachy and condescend­ing.

the current — if you’ll excuse the pun — National grid advert is no better. Over a collage of images showing a biscuit dunked in a cup of milky tea, a voiceover promises: ‘ the great grid upgrade will connect clean, affordable windpower from out at sea to all the things you love, like a tasty cuppa.’

great. Who cares about the threat of periodic power cuts when there’s no wind, if we can sometimes have a brew-up?

Some sales pitches, inevitably, give you what Love Islanders call ‘ the ick’. Every bundle of commercial­s includes a couple for incontinen­ce pads or similar products, with a scientist in a lab coat pouring a jug of blue liquid over them to demonstrat­e how absorbent they are.

But many are more distastefu­l than that. a Barclays ad, promoting financial investment services, ends with a comedian vomiting in the street after urging passers-by to try his bottles of spicy chilli dip.

Who thought this would encourage anyone to entrust their savings to the bank? and who supposed we would rush to use our tesco loyalty cards, after viewing an ad in which shoppers acquire a fixed, manic grin with bulging eyes when they swipe their Clubcards?

then there’s the emphasis on ‘diversity’. Every family in 2020s advert-land is so multi-racial and omni-gendered, it begins to feel as though the cast are selected by a box-ticking algorithm — which perhaps they are.

the apogee of this woke-bynumbers approach is a British airways ad that, in a blizzard of split- second freeze- frames, appears to feature every possible ethnicity and sexuality, against a backdrop of global tourist destinatio­ns. If only they’d adapted their old slogan: ‘Ba . . . the woke’s favourite airline.’

the trouble with such rigorous diversity is that, if all adverts are uniformly diverse, they’re all the same. and far from being inclusive, they make most of the population feel outdated, even unwanted.

above all, modern ads lack wit. Half a century on, we still chuckle at the wonderful Cinzano Bianco sketches, where a serenely pompous Leonard Rossiter managed to spill Joan Collins’s drink all over her, every single time.

and we remember the rival Martini commercial, with expensive aerial shots (long before drone filming) of a paddle-steamer yacht off the Italian coast, and a glamorous couple kissing as fireworks exploded. any time, any place, anywhere, indeed.

Compare that to the flat, static, monochrome promo for Johnny Walker whisky today. actor Jonathan Majors, in a tweed jacket, stands by a barrel.

tainted Love, the gloria Jones Northern Soul hit, is playing.

He pops a cork in the barrel, and the music stops. ‘Damn good,’ he declares, taking a sip. that’s it.

the message seems to be: ‘If you like vintage Scotch but not vintage music, drink this stuff.’

No imaginatio­n. No style. No intelligen­ce, no subtlety, no panache. Well, no thanks.

 ?? ?? VOLKSWAGEN GOLF, 1987
 ?? ?? CADBURY’S SMASH, 1974
 ?? ?? BENSON & HEDGES, 1978
 ?? ?? The drinks are on you: Stars such as Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins appeared in jokey adverts for the drinks brand
The drinks are on you: Stars such as Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins appeared in jokey adverts for the drinks brand
 ?? ?? CINZANO BIANCO, 1978
 ?? ?? GUINNESS, 1998
 ?? ?? HEINEKEN, 1985

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