As we emerge from the Christmas Season when parlour games and an over-dose of TV co-incide I wanted to pay homage to those moments of TV history that are either so creative, successful or engaging that they allow us to be described as iconic.
There can be little doubting the power of the well-timed TV advertisement to support the marketing efforts of a major brand in a critical buying season. However, there are some commercials that go beyond the marketing mix to become – almost National Treasures – being both iconic and loved by audiences.
Here are a few TV commercials that have an appeal all their own. I make no apology for the nostalgic nature of this collection as, to some extent, the core audience was then less sophisticated. The “short-hand” language of known music to accompany aspirational images is no coincidence.
The Seasonal Campaigns – when Fizzy Drinks Manufacturers and Department Stores corner the run up to Christmas.
Coca Cola Christmas – “Holidays are Coming” Holidays Are Coming – Coca Cola
The first iteration of the Coca Cola Christmas commercial was aired in 1995 featuring the “Christmas Cravan” of illuminated trucks as devised by agency W. B. Doner and Santa Claus as depicted in 1930’s for Coca Cola by the artist Haddon Sundblom. The song “Wonderful Dream (Holidays are Coming)” was first used for the Coca Cola Christmas advert in 2001.
Christmas John Lewis – “The Bear and the Hare” The Bear and The Hare
UK Department Store, John Lewis, released their first Christmas advert in 2007 but the £7m campaign in 2013 entitled “The Bear and the Hare” is truly a masterpiece. With its superb Lily Allen soundtrack (her version of Keane’s 2004 single “Somewhere Only We Know”) and meticulous artwork from a team including Aaron Blaise – known for his work with Disney – we see our hero the Hare ensuring that his hibernating friend the Bear wakes up to enjoy Christmas.
Perhaps one of the most iconic seasonable adverts that courted as much controversy as plaudits was Sainbury’s 2104 offering. This was a wonderfully evocative advert that encapsulated not only a documented historical event but made contemporary and relevant.
The AMV BBDO produced classic harnessed the World War One commenmoration that swept the UK in 2014. The director, Ringan Ledwidge, was keen to engage the support of the Royal British Legion for whom Sainbury’s donated a heathy chunk of the sales of a special chocolate bar that reproduced part of the Tommy Christmas trench rations.
Sainbury’s “Truce” Sainsbury’s “Truce”
Even if I didn’t think that Levi’s 501s – see my earlier post here – Levi 501’s were the best jeans made I suspect this advert would have converted many to this iconic brand.
Levis – Nick Kamen Levis 501 – Marvin Gaye
First shown on Boxing Day (26.12) in 1985, it was conceived by John Hegarty and Barabara Noakes of BBH and directored by Roger Lyons. It had the desired effect of making jeans sexy and revived Levis flagging fortunes – it also stimulated the sale of boxer shorts!
Even if Guinness isn’t your beer of choice – see my earlier post here – Aestheticons’ Guide to Iconic European Beers – Part 1 – one of the UK’s most favourite commercials ever made was for the Black Stuff.
The campaign was devised in 1999 by Abbott Mead Vickers for the Guinness brand and was directed by Jonathan Glazer, who later directed the cult movie “Sexy Beast” starring Ray Winstone. It was shot in Hawaii with one surfer, known as Rusty K, finally conquering the wave. Leftfield’s track “Phat Planet” beats out the inspiration drawn from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick “Ahab says, ‘I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream.'”
When you pursuade a major rock bands to allow you to use one of their songs in support of your first TV comercial, the launch of Windows 95, you have to expect to pay heavily for the priviledge. It is said that The Rolling Stones were paid $3m – for a six month license – but reports suggest that it was money well spent and made Microsoft a household name. Bill Gates apparently had the idea for the commercial from the “Start” button on his pc. The $200m launch was directed by Portland ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy
Rolling Stones Microsoft – Microsoft – Rolling Stones
The Sexy, Cute and Clever:
Eating a crumbly chocolate bar in a hot bath sound perilous but Cadbury’s managed to turn jeopardy into sexy with a series of adverts in the 1980’s/90s – even if the 1991 version featured an overflowing bath that no doubt caused havoc with the downstairs neighbours…..
Flake – Bathtime Flake
An altogether more breezy and cute image was created in 1991 by the French Publicis agency featuring a fictional father and daughter in a series of adverts for Renault’s Clio. So successful were the ads that in 1996 a survey suggested that the female lead “Nicole” – a none driver at the time of the first commercial – was more recogniseable than John Major, the then Prime Minister! The sound track to the version shown below – and there were eight ads in total – feature an acoustic recording of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary” played by an old friend, the guitar genius, Martin Taylor.
Renault Clio – Nicole/Papa Papa & Nicole
Adverts featuring a large numbers of extras that through careful choreography create stunning images fall into a category we call “cleaver”. In 1989 a Saatchi & Saatchi campaign for British Airways saw the combination of very beautifully Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) directed photography, filmed in Utah, with a stunning Malcolm McLaren and Yanni produced classical soundtrack (the Flower Duet from Léo Delibes’ opera “Lakmé”) and you have an iconic advert that’s instantly recognizable.
British Airways BA Face Commercial
Given the proliferation of media and the understandable pressures on budgets for TV/on-screen adverts, todays advertising gurus need to be a smart as their predecessors to engage an audience quickly and convincingly.
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Image credits with thanks to Coca Cola, BBC, The John Lewis Partnership, Levi Strauss, Guinness, Leftfield, Microsoft, The Rolling Stones, Sainsbury’s, Cadburys/Mondelez and British Airways.