Memorable ads which invade our brains forever

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

There's the one with the dog.

Actress Penelope Cruz in a Coca-Cola ad.

Actually, if you watch closely, there are a huge number which feature dogs and other lovable creatures to tug on your heartstrings.

But the one with the dog blowing itself with a fan seems to be one of the favourites at the moment. I do tell people, you do realise it isn't a real dog, don't you?

Presumably it will make people more likely to sign up for the AA, because otherwise what's the point, although I do sometimes wonder, because with quite a lot of the adverts I can remember the ad but can't remember whose product they are advertising. For instance, without looking it up, I have no idea why Lorraine Chase arrived at Luton Airport.

Advertising has had more impact on the English language than Shakespeare. Discuss.

Love that feeling? | 50” AA TV Ad Summer 2020

The bard said, to be or not to be. BT said, it's good to talk.

William said, what's done is done.

American Express said, that'll do nicely.


It's Good To Talk - BT - Bob Hoskins (1995)

Turn back the clock to 1859 and Thomas Beecham had opened the world’s first factory to be built solely for making medicines, in St Helens.

The first adverts for Beecham’s also appeared. So in that year, on this day, August 6, the world was introduced to the slogan “Worth a guinea a box.”

Some claim that this was the world's first printed advertising slogan. And it conveyed a familiar message – that you were getting a bargain when buying your pick-me-up pills "for bilious and nervous disorders."


At the time a guinea (£1.05) was an absolute fortune, but the boxes were priced at just over a shilling (5p) and at 2s 9d (about 14p).

The popularity of Beecham's Pills helped Beecham create a hugely successful international drugs company.

And that advert was an early example of the psychology of advertising, making people want to buy them, without really knowing what they were buying – a mild laxative containing aloe and ginger.

It isn't any different today. If you buy a bottle of Coke, you know you've got the Real Thing, but you don't know what's in it, and indeed the recipe is a secret.

Coca-Cola Commercial - It's The Real Thing #9 (1972)

Some of the most memorable ads are from the most successful companies. Are they successful companies because they've got memorable ads?

Let's try a few on you. Identify the following firms: Because I'm Worth It. Finger Lickin' Good. Vorsprung durch Technik. Beanz. The Best A Man Can Get (now superseded by The Best A Man Can Be). Simples.

This slogan was first introduced by Heinz to sell its baked beans in the 1960s.

Then there are the ones which conjure up memorable imagery, like chimps sitting at a table, or robots falling about laughing when they discover how humans make mashed potato.

But let's not celebrate the most successful adverts, because you will already have them embedded in your brain. Let's wallow in some advertising disasters.

There was a famous campaign for Strand cigarettes with the tagline "You're never alone with a Strand." It was filmed in arty film noir style, a mysterious man in a raincoat lighting up on the corner of a darkened street.

1959 Strand cigarettes - Lonely Man

Unfortunately what the public took from the "You're never alone with a Strand" slogan was that if you smoke Strand cigarettes you're a right saddo and billy-no-mates.

Then there was the Hoover free flights fiasco. In a bid to flog off unsold stock, Hoover offered free flights to America to anybody who bought Hoover products worth over £100. It assumed that not many buyers would jump through all the hoops to claim the free flights, and that the cost would be offset anyway because customers would spend more than £100.

What it didn't bank on was that huge numbers of people would buy Hoover products not because they wanted them, but to take advantage of the free flights. It cost the company nearly £50 million and immense reputational damage.

Sometimes it's just bad luck.

Can you remember the weight loss product called Ayds? Or the Belgian chocolate maker called ISIS Chocolates?

A poster at the time of the 2014 World Cup showed two little boys in footballing kit, and one complains glumly to the other: "I hope Germany wins. My dad bet all my savings on them."

Germany did win the World Cup that year. So why was it such an own goal?

The ad was intended as an anti-gambling message.


1 Put A Tiger In Your Tank.

American Esso Extra Commercial with Rex Marshall

Things are so much more vivid when you're a kid, and this ad sparked a real craze, and long before clackers came along. Whatever it was Esso was selling, it was obviously special. If dad put some of it in our Vauxhall Victor estate, we got a tiger tail. It says on the internet that people drove around with the tiger tails hanging from their petrol caps, which I vaguely remember. On adult reflection Esso probably wasn't much different to any other petrol. Even down to the lead in it.

2 John Collier, John Collier, The Window To Watch.

TDABSP130004 John Collier The Window To Watch

It's all down to the catchy tune. If you have no idea what I am talking about, read the words of the slogan to a man of a certain age and encourage them to sing it. They might already be singing it by the time you get to the encouragement bit. I never did have a John Collier suit though.

3 Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Esso Blue.

Esso Blue Dum Dum Dum

No, I'm not in the pay of Esso. But this is one which created some mirth for we schoolkids, for juvenile reasons. It was another of those catchy jingles, and for Esso Blue paraffin. At the time we had one of those chimney stove paraffin heaters. If you draped your shirt over the top, it was wonderfully warm to put on in winter. If it was made of nylon, it melted. I'm not revealing how I know that.

4 A Double Diamond Works Wonders

ADS#0001 Double Diamond (Works Wonders, So Drink One Today - Library)

Mmm... I seem to be going for catchy jingles. So far as I know, I've never had a pint of Double Diamond in my life, and certainly wouldn't have been anything like old enough to drink beer when the jingle first implanted itself in my brain forever. The same goes another eternally memorable Double Diamond one "I'm Only Here For The Beer" and Mackeson stout, which improbably promised that it "looks good, tastes good, and by golly, it does you good."

5 Happiness Is A Cigar Called Hamlet

Hamlet commercial - Photo Booth

Television advertising of tobacco has been banned for years, which only goes to show the power of this one. It ran in various forms for years. Basically something untoward or awkward happens, like a wig going awry, and the man lights up a Hamlet cigar and instantly feels better, as Bach's Air On A G String plays.


1 Guinness is good for you

ADS#0001 Guinness (Is Good For You)

The Prime Minister has announced that the Government will be spending a lot of time over the coming months telling us what is good for us, as part of a war on obesity. And one thing we can be sure of, it's probably not going to be much fun. Ditch the pork scratchings, and try couscous instead. No more cakes and chocolate, try muesli and lettuce instead.

Now here's an advertising slogan telling us that drinking beer is good for us. I don't know how reliable the science, is, but nevertheless, I'll raise a glass to that.

2 That'll do nicely

80s and 90s UK Adverts: American Express: That'll do Nicely!

Having held an American Express card for almost 20 years, I can honestly say no shopkeeper has ever responded with that catchphrase.

The more usual response is "no we don't accept it, the commission is too much", but that wouldn't make a very good advertising slogan, would it?

But while the product may not live up to the hype, there's no arguing it is a memorable slogan which has served the company well.

3 What's yours called?

Renault 5 1988 Advert UK "What's Yours Called" "There's More To Life With Renault"

Back in 1985, Renault launched its new-look small hatchback with the slogan 'What's your's called?'

I remember this because I owned a Renault 5 for four years, and everywhere I went somebody thought they were being extremely witty – not to mention original – by asking that very question.

Having never been one for giving cars names, I discussed the problem over a few pints down the pub, and we came to the conclusion that as the car was a particularly bright shade of red, I should call it Ken, as in "Red Ken" Livingstone.

When I had to produce my driving licence down the police station (for an incident that was not my fault, I may add), the copper behind the desk couldn't resist asking the question. But he didn't seem impressed when I told him it was Ken.

"You should have called it Andre," he said.

4 Leave it to Lee

Lee Longlands advert from the 80s

When the news broke last month that the venerable furniture retailer Lee Longlands had gone into administration, how many of us immediately thought of the infuriatingly catchy television adverts from the 1980s?

A stroke of marketing genius, they combined an earworm tune with a clever play on words: "Comfortab-lee, elegant-lee, tasteful-lee, leave it to Lee Longlands."

When, hopefully, this historic Midland company recovers from its present troubles, it should bring the slogan back. It will have customers flying through the doors.

5 The mint with the hole

1986 Polo Polo Advert

You have to say, basing your marketing strategy around the fact that there is a gaping hole in the middle of your product sounds like what one might call a "brave" decision, but somehow they managed to pull it off.

For some reason Polo, the mint with the middle missing, managed to comfortably outlive its rival the Trebor Mint which had no such design defect.

Which proves you can sell anything if you get your slogan right. Even if your unique selling point is made from thin air.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.


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