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George Mitchell: Take a look back at these classic TV adverts…

This advert for Smash is one of the classics that has stuck with George.
This advert for Smash is one of the classics that has stuck with George.

Advertising is a massive multi-billion-dollar business.

Anyone who says they are not swayed by adverts, is, of course, being extremely naive. We all are, whether we accept it or not.

With so many of us watching TV in the new way these days, and by that I mean on demand, online and now on YouTube, it’s often possible to skip over the ads.

Of course, if you’re watching a film on ITV, for example, you are forced to watch the ads. For many, it’s the perfect time for a loo break, or to pop on the kettle.

However, over a recent holiday, when watching far too much telly, and not needing either a loo break or a cuppa, I started to take note of the ads – and it quickly dawned on me I didn’t enjoy most of them.

I used to love adverts. They were funny, told a story, had brilliant jingles and were so professionally produced. Some have even gone on to acquire cult-like status.

But today’s TV ads? Oh dear, not in the same league at all.

Never-ending advert after advert for takeaway food deliveries, mobile phones, online bingo, to name but a few.

Never-ending adverts for takeaway food deliveries don’t impress George.

They come across, to me anyway, as too fast, very noisy, too much in your face. I find them a nuisance, and breathe a sigh of relief when they finish. They actually put me off, they do not encourage me to buy.

As for car adverts, I wish they’d stop using wide-open empty roads to sell us whatever car it is. None of us have the luxury of driving in such conditions. Show us your new car stuck in a polluted traffic jam, for that’s the reality of life.

Of course, ads from bygone days did exactly the same thing as today, ie they tired to sell us a product, but it all seemed more innocent back then.

I accept that’s me probably got my rose-tinted specs on here, but I really do feel the ads of old were in a class of their own.

We may well call them “the golden age of adverts”.

A car on an empty road forms the basis for most car adverts now. 

I spent countless hours researching for this column, and soon lost myself in a treasure trove of pure delight. Here’s just some of the old ads I came across. Oh, I do miss them…

Let’s start off with a real belter. This ad campaign ran for many years and only ended when tobacco advertising on TV was banned in 1991. Fronted by such famous faces as Ronnie Corbett and Russ Abbot, for me the best one was done by Gregor Fisher.

Sitting in a passport photo booth, the Baldy Man tries desperately to get his picture taken, but the flash keeps going off when he’s not ready.

In total despair, he finally gives up. We hear the flick of a match, a jazzy rendition of Bach’s Air On A G String, and we see a plume of smoke, which is followed by the classic one liner: “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.”

A cheeky wee schoolboy, playing conkers, remember that one? “A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat…”

And who could forget the Cinzano adverts? A series of them actually. Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins on a plane. He accidently reclines her seat and the Cinzano gets poured all over her. Pure classic comedy.

Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter starred in the famous Cinzano ads.

Ready Brek. A kind of instant porridge if I recall. Remember that orange/yellow glow that surrounded the kids once they’d consumed it? So clever. This one really convinced me to eat the stuff. The power of advertising at work.

“Do the shake and vac and put the freshness back”, sings the lady swirling round her living room as she sprinkles the product everywhere before hoovering it all up. I recall, I used to “have a thing for her”.

I can even recite the words to the entire jingle. I’m singing it now. Yes, I know, I really do need to get out more.

Tetley Tea with those lovable cartoon characters. Who couldn’t love these cute wee guys in their cloth caps and slippers? It ran for countless years, and was pure magic. “Let flavour flood out…”

Old Spice, “the mark of a man”. I may have only been a kid, but damn I really wanted this product and wanted to look like the actor as he came through the surf on his board.

“Only the crumbliest flakiest chocolate, tastes like chocolate never tasted before.” This seductive ad really appealed to the teenage me. It was all about the actress not the Flake. Although I still went out and bought said Flake.

Only the crumbliest flakiest chocolate…

“For mash get Smash.” The child me adored these hysterical laughing Martian robots as they made mashed potato out of, was it powder? No idea. Can’t be natural, but a great advert though.

Do you remember this in the early 1980s? Knorr stock cubes, I think. The famous line being: “Pea and ham, from a chicken? Now that’s clever.”

“Hey Mr Beaver, why are you beavering around?” Asks the gorgeous flirtatious bunny rabbit, as she hands over a chunk of chocolate.

“Take it easy, with Cadbury’s Caramel.” Oh, her voice did it for me.

This next one is not just an ad, it’s a work of art, worthy of an Oscar in my opinion. The product? Coca Cola. It was a marketing masterpiece. The soundtrack was voted the greatest ever song from a TV ad. Remember? “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…”

Toothpaste ads are so clinical these days. All presented by flawless-looking people with immaculate gleaming white gnashers. Boring. I prefer the animated jazzy cool swinging Aquafresh toothpaste ad from the 80s. “Aquafresh is for the family” the catchy jingle went.

Very James Bond in style, I was in awe of this next advert. With dramatic music playing in the background, our hero skis down mountains avoiding avalanches, and even swims in shark-infested waters – all in order to drop off a precious gift. “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray.”

The Milk Tray adverts were very like James Bond.

Chocolate again, with Windsor Davies. The camera zooms in on his expressive face as he tells us the joy of eating the Wispa bar. What a voice he has. I could listen to Windsor Davies read the phone book to be honest.

“The creamiest milk, the whitest bar, the good taste that’s in…”

Yes, of course, it’s the Milky Bar kid. Is this ad still on the go? I have no idea.

The Milky Bars are on me.

On reflection, all these chocolate ads must have been heaven sent for dentists.

Remember this? “Oh, we are the lads from country life and you’ll never put a better bit of butter on your knife… if you haven’t any in, have a word with your wife, and spread it on your toast in the morning.”

Yup, it’s the old ad for Country Life English Butter.

Now this 1980s series of ads, forever associated with a certain famous directory, is utterly heart-warming.

Picture the scene – an elderly man goes from shop to shop trying in vain to find a book. No one seems to have it, the man is despondent, and his daughter says he should try the Yellow Pages.

Eventually he manages to find a copy and the look on the old man’s face, fills your soul with joy.

Yes, you know the one, “Fly Fishing, by JR Hartley”.

The classic Yellow Pages advert.

Can we top that one? Possibly.

The young lad pushing his delivery bike up the hill? The mesmerising music of Dvorak filling our ears? A reminder of long-lost bygone days.

Of course, it’s the Hovis bread ad from 1973.

Filmed at a real live location, the iconic Gold Hill Shaftesbury, no wonder it’s seen as Britain’s favourite TV ad. It became so famous, that the Two Ronnies even did their own sketch of it in 1978.

Go on YouTube and watch some of these old ads, then ask yourself how today’s lot compare? They don’t. Not even in the same league.

As with classic TV comedies themselves, when it comes to adverts, it seems we really don’t make ’em like we used to.

In fact, I’ve gotten more joy out of watching these old TV ads than I have from watching actual current-day programmes.

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