There was a time when we didn’t fast-forward through the adverts…

These days many of us deliberately record our favourite TV programmes in order to avoid the adverts.

Let’s face it, there are only so many times you can watch a skinny, unblemished Hollywood actress extol of the virtues of anti-wrinkle cream before you want to smash up your telly.

I honestly don’t recall adverts being either so bland or patronising when I was growing up.

Perhaps it’s just the rose-tinted glasses, but I remember actually enjoying many of the adverts from the Eighties.

Granted, there were some stinkers with infuriating tunes which you just couldn’t get out of your head.

I mean, when was the last time you did the Shake ‘N Vac and put the freshness back?

See what I mean? You’ll be humming that all day. I know I have been.

But among the annoying songs and frankly naff products were some genuine television classics which have stood the test of time and remain locked in our heads.

So here’s my homage to the marketing geniuses of yesteryear…

First is an advert for one of those Eighties gadgets I was desperate for my mum to buy – only to discover it was rubbish.

It featured people of all ages who seem to have been chosen for their ability to gurn while supping pop.

I never ‘got busy with the fizzy’ because, having experienced a Soda Stream drink at my mate’s house, I realised that the four bottles of pop we bought from the milkman every week tasted much better.

Next up it’s an advert which I, rather bizarrely, memorised the lyrics to and which I can still recite, word-for-word.

Yes, at number nine is the Um Bongo advert – all cartoon animals in the jungle and a lightning-quick song which begins: “Way down deep In the middle of the Congo, a hippo took an apricot, a guavo and a mango…”

I learned both verses to impress a girl in my class. What was I thinking?

At number eight I’m going for my first taste of the corporate behemoth that is McDonald’s.

The U.S. burger giant’s first store in the UK actually opened in Woolwich in 1974 but it wasn’t until the mid-Eighties that we all went Big Mac crazy.

The advert which began with the words “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickled onions on a sesame seed bun,” suckered us all in to an American legend. (Mainly because we were scratching our heads trying to work out what a pattie was).

The next one’s for my mum – a devotee of a certain type of confectionery which I used to fetch for her from the Outdoor.

Yes, in at number seven is the utterly preposterous Fry’s Turkish Delight advert which features a snake, a pair of unlikely-looking Bedouins and the award for most-inventive used of a scimitar.

Full of Eastern promise was the slogan. More like the promise of a trip to A&E if you ask me. That bloke was lucky not to have his girlfriend’s fingers off when he cut her chocolate bar in half.

Continuing the theme of cinematic adverts is on which borrowed heavily from James Bond or perhaps, more likely, Carry On Spying.

It starts with an inexplicable speed boat crash into a jetty to the surprise of assorted mustachioed villains and ends with a tracksuited frogman sneaking onboard a luxury yacht to deliver a box of chocolates.

Yes, in at number six it’s the Milk Tray man who clearly had issues with Royal Mail’s parcel delivery service.

Now if, like me, you remember walking to school on cold winter mornings and feeling invincible because of a certain breakfast cereal then number five is for you.

Ready Brek makes my top 10 on account of that advert showing the two lads wearing parkas surrounded by an orange glow which protected them against the very worst that the great British weather could throw at them.

At number four is a charming little gem which, in the pre-internet days of 1983, showed just how invaluable the Yellow Pages was to us all.

The advert in question featured an elderly gentleman visiting several second-hand bookshops enquiring after Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley.

His sympathetic daughter then hands him a Yellow Pages and, upon finding a store which has a copy, we hear the old boy proudly exclaim, at dictation speed, that he is the author of the book.

(I also enjoyed the Yellow Pages’ advert featuring a mop-haired lad vainly attempting to track down a French polishers who could repair his parents’ antique table after a raucous party).

In at number three is an advert which still makes me chortle to this day – even though I know what’s coming.

It featured actor Gregor Fisher as a man with the worst kind of flip-top hairdo desperately trying to look suave in a photo booth.

Excruciatingly, the camera only flashes when he looks his most daft – like when the stool collapses under his weight – and the advert finishes with only the top of his dome head visible, lighting a Hamlet cigar and blowing smoke rings.

Pipped to the top spot is an advert which straddles that fine line between catchy and annoying.

Featuring a skeleton and the immortal words “I’m gonna tell ya how it’s going to be…” this promotion for Scotch video tapes seeped into the nation’s consciousness.

However, I’d like take issue with the lifetime guarantee of being able to “re-record, not fade away” as I distinctly recall missing out on an episode of The Gentle Touch through tape failure.

Which, by a process of elimination, means the crown goes to an advert, and a soft drink, which knocked Soda Stream into a cocked hat.

I could face a stewards’ inquiry as it first aired in the Seventies, but I’m claiming it for the Eighties as I remember watching it on a Saturday night just after I had started high school in 1983.

It features a pyjama-clad bloke sneaking down the stairs in the dead of night to raid the fridge.

He then jiggles around the kitchen carrying a bottle of pop until his rather bemused other half arrives.

The accompanying, unfathomably-catchy rock ’n roll music made the R. White’s ‘secret lemonade drinker’ advert a favourite with my brother and I – even though we were still guzzling that cheap stuff from the milkman.

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

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One thought on “There was a time when we didn’t fast-forward through the adverts…

  1. Pop off the milkman. Kids now ask: what’s a milkman! There also used to be the Alpine pop man who, towards the end of his days, diversified his business to start selling dodgy VHS tapes and music tapes!
    As soon as Eighties adverts were talked of I immediately thought of R White’s and you rightly have that in the top spot.

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