The 1980’s is well known for shoulder pads, video cassettes, and massive hair. However, there was one part of the 80’s that shined above all else. Funny British TV adverts. With only four channels for viewers to choose from, advertisers had the public in the palm of their hands – but the value of our eyeballs also meant that the competition to engage us was fierce.
How could they ensure that the masses took note and remembered their brand? Well – the best Ad Men knew that the only credible answer was to make them funny. Whether it was a song that stuck in your head, a catchphrase that you could mimic in school or work, or whether it was just an Ad packed full of downright hilarious slapstick nonsense – big brands were always trying to outdo each other, but upping the comedy stakes.
If you grew up, or were at least alive, in the 1980’s, then you will no doubt remember who ‘pitied the fool,’ you’d have fond memories of the bearded fellow who had a ‘small hand’ in playing pranks on people, you knew the place ‘where everybody knows your name,’ you spent your Saturday nights finding out ‘who they were, and where they came from,’ Thursday nights finding out who was Top of the Pops, and of course who could forget everyone’s favourite dodgy dealer and his ‘plonker’ brother.
Knowing the catchphrases of your favourite TV shows is one thing, but how many TV adverts can you remember? Probably a lot more than you think! Here are a few phrases, that we think you will finish off in your head, and in the correct tune if it’s musical.
If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit….
They’re tasty, tasty, very very tasty….
You do the shake ‘n’ vac….
How did you do? Nailed them? When comedy is used in advertising, you will get your audiences attention, as proven by these adverts. Get it right, and your catchphrase, song or brand message can last decades.
Now that nostalgia mode has been activated in your brain, you will no doubt be wanting more. Well, we have just what you need. White Label Comedy not only have a fantastic archive of adverts, with a great 80’s section.
But you don’t want to spend hours scrolling through the worst just to find the best, do you? You want to be told exactly which ten 80’s Ads are the funniest – which is why you’re lucky you found me.
This is White Label Comedy’s official list of the Top 10 funny 80’s adverts (the UK Edition) – as chosen by our elite team of judges *.
* it’s an elite team of one. Me! White Label’s resident blogger Brad Holcombe. But don’t worry – I’ve got impeccable taste.
Featuring Allo Allo’s Gordon Kaye as a waiter, this advert is a perfect example of how comedy can boost your brand. Bland Flakes, sorry, Bran Flakes are not the worlds most exciting cereal, but put them in an advert with a light-hearted and ridiculously catchy song, and you have a product people will not only remember but will actually buy. This advert was one of a series, which featured the same concept. People in situations where they could have something nice to eat, but all opting for the underwhelming brown flaked cereal.
With the simple phrase ‘I want a Trio and I want one now’ the advertisers of Trio really made an impression with their campaign. Susie, an animated little blonde-haired girl, sings or rather shouts, the adverts song. Putting the lyrics to the well known song Day-O, Trio, and little Susie were guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. And who didn’t love shouting ‘TRIO’ whenever someone had one in their lunch box?!
One of a series of adverts for Scotch Videos, this advert was a slightly edgy instalment. Featuring the beloved Scotch Skeleton, here we find him dressed in a mac, asking if we have any dirty videos! He’s only advertising a video head cleaner, but the joke sat well with the times, as unlike today where you have porn with the tap of a thumb, ‘blue movies’ were on video cassette, which were seedily purchased, swapped or loaned. Gross. You may well remember the catchphrase for these adverts being the unforgettable (and very repetitive) ‘Re-record not fade away, re-record not fade away’ and so on.
7 – Dime – Avalanche
Dime (or Daim as it’s now known) has never been the most popular chocolate snack on the shelf, but they certainly know how to grab our attention. Before Harry Enfield starred in a series of Dime bar adverts in the 90’s showcasing ‘thick’ people (wouldn’t be allowed today) saying things like ‘I likes Armadillos’ and ‘That blokes a nutter… Oi nutter’ Dime also used humour in their adverts. This one has quite a dry humour and compares the sound of a Dime bar crunch to an avalanche.
6 – Trebor – Mr Soft
With a remake of the Steve Harley & The Cockney Rebel song ‘Mr Soft,’ Trebor had an instant hit with this advert. A catchy song plus a kooky video grabbed the viewers attention, and for many, similar to a KGB spy, embedded the song into the brain to pop out unannounced whenever the codeword ‘soft’ is triggered.
Fantastically British advert featuring John Cleese and Gabrielle Drake. This advert shows, in all its exaggerated glory, how wrong things can go if you remain with a stiff upper lip rather than just giving in and listening to common sense (and your wife!). Faced with a leak, Cleese rings around trying to find someone to come out to repair. Things quite quickly get worse, and Drake does what Cleese should have done initially, and that is phone the now obsolete Talking Pages.
John Smiths have a history of using comedy in their adverts. Stars such as Jack Dee and Peter Kay have brought their own spin to the ads, but before them, they had a long running series of ads featuring Gordon Rollings & Charlie Pemberton. All very Yorkshire, and very funny. And what a talented pooch. Pudsey has nothing on this one!
Now we hit the top three, we find ourselves in the Australian outback. The Castlemaine four X adverts were not only funny, but they gave people a new way of disguising a swear. The tagline ‘Australians wouldn’t give a Castlemaine four X (XXXX) for anything else’ was brilliant, and perfect line for putting someone or something down that you couldn’t give a ‘Castlemaine four X’ about! The ads show how much the Aussies cherished the beer over anything else. In this particular ad, we see a man happily allow his friend to continue to die rather than give him his last beer.
At number two we have the very funny Gregor Fisher playing his character Baldy Man. The Rab C Nesbitt actor is getting his photo taken in a booth. After styling his (almost non-existent) hair, he is ready to go, but it all goes horribly wrong. You’re are left with only his comb over in view. The music of Bach plays, he lights his Hamlet cigar, and he just forgets his worries in a puff of smoke. This was obviously when smoking had no negative side effects and was cool. There were a number of Hamlet ads, until tobacco ads were banned in 1991, all with the similar set up, and the tagline ‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.’
At number one we find one of the most memorable catchphrases. ‘I bet he drinks Carling Black Label’ This catchphrase was very popular, and even though it was quite lengthy, it was still used in day to day life for anything out of the ordinary. The ad is a spoof of the Levi’s 501 ad where a hunky guy takes off his clothes in a launderette. He gets a mixture of approving and disapproving looks. The spin is after the catchphrase. The guy is sat in his pants, so it is said that he must drink Carling Black Label, but this is soon redacted as he ‘doesn’t wash his underpants.’
So there we have it. That’s the OFFICIAL (my official) Top 10 Funny 80s Ads. But we only just scratched the surface of the Funny Ads Archive – so why not head on over, and immerse yourself in all that nostalgia, from across each and every decade.
Think we’ve missed out a choice 80s Ad? You can always submit it to the archive yourself.