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40 Classic UK TV Advertising Campaigns Part 4

9th December 2021
Reading Time
11 minutes

Part 4: Non-food Products and Services

31. Economy 7 Electricity Slimline Storage Heaters (song)

Launched in November 1978, the Economy 7 electric tariff offered householders considerably lower rates at night time for electricity consumption than the standard ones applying in the day. This engendered a demand for devices that would take advantage of these reduced rates while their householders were sleeping. So was born the Economy 7 storage heater, which would be powered up at night and then release its heat slowly during the day time.

A purely functional device like a heater may not seem a creative advertiser's dream marketing project, but by 1982, a TV advertising campaign featuring a chorus of female vocalists singing in delightful harmonies about the advantages of Economy 7 storage heaters had been launched, to the visual backdrop of an animated cartoon portraying the song as emanating from the mouths of a trio of dancing storage heaters:

Wanna make your home all warm and cosy?
Slimline heaters are for you!
Seven! They run on Economy 7!
Cheaper electricity heaven!
Seven hours at night,
You'll get it at a price that's right!

The sales message was clear, and it was delivered in style.

The attached example features East Midlands Electricity branding, but versions of the same advertisement were run all over the UK by the different regional electricity companies, which remained owned by the state until the privatisation of electricity supply in 1990. 


32. TSB bank (‘Come on, Frobisher!’)

TSB Group was formally launched in 1985 following the merger of 73 separate local banks collectively known as trustee savings banks, the earliest of which had been in operation since 1810. In the run up to the merger, a major television advertising campaign was launched in 1982, featuring the tagline 'TSB: the bank that likes to say "Yes!"', usually in sung form, as a jingle.

The campaign gradually evolved into variant forms, and one of the outstanding examples from several years later (1989) was an advertisement featuring a pastiche of the archetypal 1980s-era Yuppie named J. J. Hackenbush. He is portrayed as 'an immensely wealthy man' who is entirely singularly focused on earning money, attends meetings with a sense of great urgency, and is surrounded by an entourage schooled into taking notes from his meetings. After introducing himself in no uncertain terms as follows:

I'm J. J. Hackenbush, an immensely wealthy man. I can only give you one minute of my time. Time is money!

he settles into a high-speed delivery of his banking demands, so rapid that the elements are practically inaudible, but a voice-over summarises them and reassuringly announces that 'We said yes...' to each of them in turn.

Part-way through, for comic effect, Hackenbush suddenly becomes distracted by one of his team, a Mr. Frobisher, shouting 'Frobisher, write that down!' into his ears, before immediately resuming his previous pitch to the banker seated opposite him. As soon as he has finished, he curtly exclaims 'Bye!' and gets up to leave, swiftly followed by his team. Again, he becomes comically fixated on Mr. Frobisher, suspecting him of lagging behind the rest of the team, and calls out 'Come on, Frobisher!' with a tone of exasperated chastisement.

The concluding slogan in this instance, delivered by the softly-voiced narrator, whose calm tones are clearly meant to reassuringly contrast with the hurried ones of the harried business magnate, is a little different from the original 'the bank that likes to say "Yes!"':

If you want to cope with the fast world of finance, the answer's T - Yes - B.

The messaging remains focused on accentuating the positive, with the implicit suggestion that TSB is more likely to give you all the facilities you want and need than other banks, and less likely to turn your requests down. At a time of Margaret Thatcher's 'Opportunity Britain', it was sure to appeal to many budding Thatcher's children, with or without the light relief offered by the Yuppie caricature embodied in J. J. Hackenbush, which nonetheless helpfully served to make the campaign more memorable and engaging.


33. DHL express delivery (Diana Ross ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ cover version)

DHL has long been one of the world's leading express courier companies, although nowadays it also noticeably offers a range of lower-cost international delivery services, especially from Germany.

In the late 1980s, the company began to use the song 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', originally a Top 10 hit for Diana Ross in 1970, to promote its international courier service, changing the chorus line subtly to:

Ain't no mountain high enough,
Ain't no valley deep enough,
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep us from you!

The original song had been a love song with 'To keep me from you' in the last line of the chorus, but by changing the 'me' to 'us', the advertisers changed the meaning into a description of the boundless reach of DHL's delivery service, getting across the idea that if you have relatives, friends or customers living in any part of the world, however remote and however hostile the terrain may be, you can still send packages to them through DHL because it has the resources to deliver them.

The romantic atmosphere of the original song further helps to convey the idea that there may be something romantic about sending a parcel by express courier to a loved one staying in a remote or very distant quarter of the world - perhaps subjectively helping to justify the higher cost of such a service compared with the ordinary postal service.

The slogan displayed on the screen at the end, 'You Know It's Arrived the Moment It's Sent', adds messaging emphasising the reliability of DHL's express courier service and the peace of mind this should bring to the sender.


34. Rap’Tou (‘But look: you also get a second machine!’ hard sell)

In 1990, a manually-operated French food-preparation device called Rap'Tou was launched onto the international marketplace in a blaze of hard-hitting publicity via television advertising. In those days, the statutory time limit for commercial breaks within British television programmes was two minutes, whereas those between them could last up to four, and advertising slots were priced in ten-second blocks, so all TV advertisements lasted for multiples of ten seconds, with the shortest lasting ten seconds and the longest typically one minute.

The advertising agency behind the Rap'Tou campaign pushed the boat out by investing in a two-minute-long advertisement for the product. Such long advertisements were unknown in their time on British television, and when they were scheduled within programmes they would fill the entire two-minute break. But they were carefully planned to make every second count.

Whereas other advertisements used music, songs, and all manner of impressionism to convey feelings, the advertisers of Rap'Tou opted for a plain-talking hard sell with their campaign. There was no music, only a narrator running through a pre-scripted sales pitch designed to persuade the viewer of how indispensably useful the device would be in the kitchen:

Are you still making shredded knuckles?
Still collecting knick-knacks and thingummyjigs?
Then Rap'Tou is for you!
Just root it to your worktop, attach one of these blades, and away you go!
A little cabbage quickly turns into a mountain of coleslaw, and you can colour it with radishes without scraping your knuckles.
Change blades, and you have these three super-fast knives! Just look at those carrot slices fly!
Want longer slices? They don't take any longer to make! Rap'Tou slices anything; and to clean, all you do is rinse!
The third blade is so tough it can glide through even the hardest cheese.
Think this ice can jam it? Rap'Tou crushes that idea!
The fourth blade does all your fine grinding.
Yes, Rap'Tou shreds, grates, grinds and slices, yet it won't cut your fingers!
How much would you pay for a machine like this?
But look: you also get a second machine that turns a potato into a fistful of French fries,
Makes healthy carrot sticks for munchies,
And look: it even makes diced vegetables!
How's that for versatile?
Order now and get our special bowl that fits securely on the base.
It's an extra hand: that means no more uh-uh!
And you can say 'uh-uh' to the price, because you get everything for just 19.95!
Want more? Then watch this potato! It comes out mashed! But where's the peel? Unbelievable!
Try it with an egg! One push here, egg salad here, and the shell... here! Amazing!
You get everything complete: both machines, the safety bowl, and all the attachments, for only 19.95!
Order your Rap'Tou now!

We do not know how many Rap'Tous were sold, but suspect not as many as the advertisers hoped, because the costly campaign had disappeared from our screens within a year or so, and was never repeated.

Perhaps the hard sales pitch method and slightly naff humour was not as well-suited to sceptical, discerning British audiences as had been hoped, although the script was undeniably catchy and easy to memorise. Could some of the public have been put off buying the device by not wanting to be seen by their friends or family as having fallen for the corny sales pitch? There is evidence on Youtube of variations on the advertisement also having been run in Australia and the United States, so perhaps one of these came first and the British campaign was modelled upon it closely.


35. Brut aftershave (‘Brute: the essence of man’ double-entendre slogan)

Brut is a brand of perfumed products designed for application on the skin that is marketed at men. It was launched in 1964. and has increasingly diversified in its product range since then. The range includes an aftershave, which in the early 1990s was advertised with the help of American actress Kelly LeBrock, who was asked to define 'the essence of man' on camera. After running through various considerations in a stream of consciousness, she concludes in a breathy whisper:

And when he holds you close, it's in the way he smells!

Cue the advertising slogan 'Brut: the Essence of Man!'

The implication is that if a man wears Brut aftershave he embodies the essence of masculinity because he smells manly, and also that wearing it makes men more attractive to women when they are held close.

The messaging is highly psychologically manipulative, but arguably very effective. If a celebrated young actress thinks that a man wearing Brut is particularly masculine and appealing to hold close, why wouldn't any woman?

There is perhaps also a sneaky humorous double entendre in the slogan that plays to some women's mixed feelings about overtly masculine behaviour, implying that the essence of man is to be a brute - a little primitive, crude and unsubtle. But the spirit is forgiving. How such a campaign would go down today, 30 years of social change around gender roles later, is difficult to imagine, but we suspect it would be quite controversial with many.


36. Head & Shoulders (‘I didn’t know you had dandruff!’) skit

In recent years, Head and Shoulders has moved on to more subtle messaging, but back in the 1980s, it was stuck in a groove with the 'I didn't know you had dandruff!' campaign.

A succession of scenes is shown, in each of which an identical dialogue plays out between someone discovering that the other person has a bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo, and suspecting the second person of suffering from dandruff as a result, before the other one dismissively replies 'I don't!'

Although the dialogue is very repetitive, it gets across the point that Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo is not only medically useful for the treatment of a serious condition of skin flaking away from the scalp, but also good for its prevention in the first place. The aim is also to remove any sense of negative social stigma or personal embarrassment that might otherwise be associated with being seen in possession of anti-dandruff shampoo.

With this campaign, Head & Shoulders was thrust into the mainstream as a shampoo suitable for everyone and effective at preventing a potentially embarrassing skin condition from manifesting in the first place. The aim was that it would no longer be those caught using Head & Shoulders who would feel embarrassed, but rather those who were caught with dandruff flakes in their hair or on their shoulders because they hadn't used it. So fear of embarrassment was being used as a marketing tool in favour of increased sales of the product.


37. Do It All D.I.Y. (comical song)

Do It All was the brand of a building products company focused upon the D.I.Y. home renovations market. Originally called LCP Home Improvements when founded in 1963, it was renamed Do It All in 1978 after being acquired by high-street stationery retail company W. H. Smith, which still owned it at the time of the classic series of advertisements of the 1980s and 1990s centered upon the familiar 'How Do Do It All Do It?' theme song, which was originally sung by a trio of ordinary working-class men singing and dancing in a similarly wacky style to contemporaneous pop band Madness, without any obvious voice training but with an air of bonhomie and good cheer, as shown here:

How do Do It All do it,
What they do it for?
Won't somebody tell?
If only we knew it,
How Do It All do it,
You can bet we'd be doing it as well!

The implicit meaning of 'what they do it for' was 'what they sell their products for'. The suggestion is that Do It All's prices are so low that it is difficult to understand how they manage to sell their products for such prices and still survive as a business. The last line positions the singers as rival storeholders struggling to compete with Do It All on price. This is further underlined by the pastiches of company branding on their backs, which read 'Cheapo DIY Megastore', 'Givaway Goods' and (seen cheekily emblazoned over the lower back of the most clean-shaven of the men as he slides down a banister straight into the eye of the camera) 'Rock Bottom D.I.Y.'.

A voiceover narrator cuts in to give more details of prices, adding that 'every week, the Do It All computer checks prices all over the country, so nobody does it better!'

At the height of the success of these advertisements, Do It All was as omnipresent in parts of the country as B&Q, which coexisted with it as a rival at the time, has since become.

In the 1990s, the men were bizarrely replaced by a trio of animated ducks, leading to speculation that one of the original actors for the men representing rival stores may have died.

The chain of Do It All stores was sold on to Focus D.I.Y. in 1998, and closed down in 2011 when Focus itself ceased trading.


38. Jewson (‘We’ve got the Jewson Lot’ skit)

Jewson is a very old company that runs a nationwide chain of stores selling building materials to the building trade. It was founded by George Jewson in East Anglia in 1836, during the reign of King William IV; and the brand still exists today, although the chain is nowadays headquartered at Coventry, and has been owned by a French company since 2000.

In the early 1990s, it ran a comical advertising campaign on British TV centered upon the punchline 'We've got the Jewson lot!'

The advertisement features a building contractor coming into a store and reeling off a list of his shopping demands, which are served up to him almost miraculously quickly, thereby giving the impression that for a builder on a job in a hurry, it is an excellent place to stop for fast service and has a large quantity in stock of virtually every material a builder could want.

The peculiarity of the advertisement that made it comical lies in the building contractor's specification of 'Jewson' before every item on his shopping list. On the face of it, this suggests that he is a past-time convert to Jewson's own-brand goods and trusts in their quality. But the way he interjects 'Jewson' before every item on his list also speaks to the colorful language often heard on building sites. In short, it's a substitute for a common swear word. The notion of a builder swearing his way through a list of items he needs for his job was designed to bring light relief to builders who are used to hearing and in many cases using such language in their workplaces.

The slogan 'We've got the Jewson lot!' is final confirmation of this innuendo. It only makes sense when Jewson is considered as a substitute for a common swear-word, although on the surface it is implying that the company stocks all its own-brand products in its stores, which would be a statement of the obvious. The underlying messaging is that Jewson sells absolutely everything a builder wants and needs, making it a convenient one-stop shop, with no need to waste time going anywhere else.


39. Andrex: ‘Soft, Strong and Very Long’ (1982)

Andrex is a premium-priced brand of rolled toilet tissue that was first launched in the UK in 1942, before coming under American ownership in the mid-1950s. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was widely advertised using the slogan 'soft, strong and very long', with accompanying visual imagery of a puppy enjoying unravelling an entire roll.

The Andrex puppy became inseparably associated with the brand. In the embedded example, the advertisers really went to town on the imagery, adding in a soft pink background and individual sheets of the tissue raining down on the happy puppy from above to the point where it is almost buried by them, ostensibly with no ill-effects because they were so soft.

The grounds for advertising Andrex as 'very long' were clear at the time: it had 280 sheets per roll, at a time when most rival products could manage only 240. However, in 2001, the  number of sheets per roll was cut to 240. In 2015, it was further reduced to 221 sheets; and in 2017, it was cut to 200. Surprisingly, it continues to be advertised to this day as 'soft, strong and very long', although it is now eighty sheets shorter than it was when the phrase was coined, and forty sheets shorter than its rivals were at the time.


40. Fairy Liquid (‘Hands that do Dishes’ song)

Fairy Liquid is a leading brand of liquid detergent used for washing up by hand in the UK. In its heyday, it was advertised to draw attention to two distinct selling points, typically in separate advertisements. One was that a single bottle was supposedly enough to tackle significantly more washing-up than other brands because of the high concentration of its active ingredients in its formula.

The second, as exemplified here, drew attention to it being kinder to the skin of the one doing the washing-up than other brands. Since the first such campaign in the 1950s, this was traditionally represented by a woman undertaking the washing-up in a conversation with her young daughter about how kind Fairy Liquid was to her hands.

The example here, which dates from 1988, introduced a more modern take on the theme, dispensing with the old-fashioned assumed gender roles around work in the kitchen by having the woman's husband undertaking the washing-up instead, much to the consternation of their daughter, who seems to have become convinced that Fairy Liquid is a special hand treatment to make her mother's hands softer and that her father therefore should not be using it!

When he asks his daughter if Fairy Liquid has made his hands soft too, she replies: 'well, not as soft as Mummy's hands, but that's because you don't do as much washing-up as Mummy does!'

The father looks slightly aghast at this truthful revelation from the mouth of a child, perhaps feeling the guilt of not having done his fair share of the housework for a long time. The messaging is that Fairy Liquid is suitable for new men as well as the women it had traditionally been marketed at, and that the makers of the brand understand that the traditional advertising may by now have come to seem offensive to modern women and needed updating.

Nonetheless, the sung refrain at the end is retained intact from the original campaign of the 1950s, and has an old-world charm to it:

Now hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face,
With mild green Fairy Liquid!


Bonus: classic radio advertisement - TDK cassettes (reggae song)

From the late 1970s to the late 1990s, the blank tape cassette was ubiquitous as a medium for recording music and other programmes from radio, as well as for compiling music from other sources such as vinyl, CD and pre-recorded musicassettes.

In the UK, a number of big brands battled for market share in the blank tape market, including Maxell and Memorex, but TDK was always at the forefront, and tended to have better reviews for sound quality than most of its rivals.

Recognising that many radio listeners were avid home tapers, the company advertised its tapes widely on independent local radio. In this example, a chilled-out reggae track plays soothingly, its chorus singing the praises of TDK cassettes. The messaging is that long-lived sonic bliss and relaxation to music is just one TDK tape away, and also that TDK tapes are cool enough for even the most hip and sophisticated musical tastes - as implied by the choice of a relatively non-commercial but very trendy style of music of black origin, reggae, to promote the brand.


Return to Part 1: Fruit drinks, beer and tea

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