Best business-boosting British Ads

Find out how to give your business the You’ve Been Tangoed effect

To grow your business you need to advertise. Around £17bn a year wouldn’t be sunk into UK’s advertising industry if wasn’t a crucial part of the consumer equation.

That said, getting your brand identity right though is no easy task. A good advert can rebrand your image or launch you from obscurity. A bad one can drain your resources and make your product look dated. Not all publicity is good publicity when it comes to big brand recognition.

The upside is that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money to get your advert right. You need originality.

“Originality comes before everything else,” says Paul Simonet, European creative strategy director at communications agency Imagination. “If you can’t cut through you can’t cut it. Be unoriginal and nobody will care what you say - even if it is right.”

To help you think outside the box, we take a look at some iconic British ads that have helped businesses boom.

Cadbury’s Year of the Gorilla

There are many theories as to why a Gorilla drumming along to Phil Collins provided such a hit for the brand,” says Elliot Parkus, head of marketing at AdConnection.

The truth is that no one really knows. It was silly, it was frivolous, and above all it was very very random. Yet, the advert was a major hit, getting more than 10 million YouTube views.

Cadbury chief exec Todd Stitzer was so pleased that he called 2007 the “year of the gorilla”.

Sales of Dairy Milk products went up by 8% after the August 2007 ad and even helped reverse damage done by a high-profile 2006 salmonella scare which saw Cadbury recall truckloads of its chocolate.

“The ad got consumers positively engaged with the brand again,” says Parkus. “On one level it links the happiness of enjoying chocolate with the fun of the advertising content, but more simply it moved the product back to front of mind for consumers and retailers, a crucial step for impulse product.”

You’ve been Tangoed

Voted Britain’s third most loved advert of all time, Tango’s Orange Man was stroke of advertising genius. Or possibly madness. The line separating the purely bizarre from the purely brilliant is razor thin in the ad world.

Within a fortnight of launching, however, daily sales jumped from 1 million a day to 1.3 million.

“98% of advertising is so bland that it becomes invisible,” says Steve Henry, the man behind the iconic 1990s ads that brought us the much-loved, dipper-clad, human-sized umpa lumpa.

“You have to make sure that your ads stand out. You have to try and smash the rules but you still have to do this in a way that equates with the emotional expectation of the brand.”

And smash Henry did. Overnight Tango went from a weirdly-coloured budget alternative for Coca Cola to a British sensation.

With Tango Man, gone were the days of ads filled with kids running around, getting thirsty and guzzling soft drinks. In were WTF phrases like, “Too much Tango made me think I was a Ninja but I’m not. I’m just Gary.”

Meerkat is NOT the same as Market

Aleksandr Orlov is a celebrity. He appears on chat shows, has 54,000 Twitter followers and managed to rack up over 600,000 Facebook friends within months of launching his ad campaign.

He is also a meerkat, and head of the fictional Orlov clan that owns  

The site made headlines in 2009 when Orlov took to the airways to proclaim his frustration for similarly named which customers were confusing with his site.

It was low budget and weird but amazingly Simples!

The ad campaign boosted site traffic by three quarters in six months, and upped Compare the Market ranking from the 16th most visited insurance site to the 4th. The adverts helped double the site’s sales, with it increasing its market share by 76% within a year. The ads have run ever since.

Basically anything Branson

Only a few British brands have consistently good adverts, but Virgin is one of them. Before you think it, Guinness is not British, and neither is HSBC.

Virgin’s sarcastic tongue in cheek adverts – loved by founder Richard Branson for their “jugular marketing” – were instrumental in launching the brand and then keeping it on top with crackers like “BA don’t give a Shiatsu” back in the 1990s.

“…The ads were close to the bone, especially when tweaking the tail of our favourite adversaries, notably British Airways,” Branson writes in his latest book Like a Virgin. “Always irrelevant and cheeky, the ads gave Virgin Atlantic a real personality in its early years, which was a key to its success and growth.”

Other classics include Virgin’s gag on BA’s Millennium Wheel catastrophe. When engineers failed to lift the BA-sponsored wheel, Virgin got airplanes to fly around London with banners reading “BA can’t get it up.” Classic.

Go On Lad

122 seconds for 122 years of history. Hardly a revolutionary idea, but one which illustrated that, if done right, going back to your roots can be a winner.

The 2008 ad, featuring a young boy clutching his Hovis through the ages, rewinding back to 1886, helped the brand rebound after years of neglect. For decades, its market share was being chomped up by the likes of Kingsmill and Warburtons but within weeks of the September airing, Hovis raked up £12m in additional sales. Not bad for the £1m price tag.

“The ‘Go on Lad’ ad encapsulated the strength of Hovis’ heritage but crucially brought it right up to the present day, giving it renewed relevance. It used the power of the Hovis brand and positioned it as a leader within the category,” says Parkus.

Britishness is a brand

Sex sells but so does quintessential Britishness. So many ads and brands have played on the motif that it’s hard to single out one for LondonlovesBusiness greatness. But the recipe of simple, sophisticated country living, monarchy, heritage and even dreary skies can be ad gold. 

Provided you can link your brand to brand UK, you could be on the fast-track to international and domestic success.

“Since the build-up to the royal wedding, all eyes have been on Britain and we were are suddenly feeling very proud to be British,” says Northstar Research Partner brand advisor Jack Miles who works with the likes of classic brands like Jaguar Land Rover.

If you can play on this you will win over Brits, but also crucially the Chinese who have a proven thirst for the supposed reliability and classicism of British products.

A great 2012 example has been Jaguar Land Rover. The Coventry-based company saw a 91% increase in overall sales from the Chinese market and reported a 45% boom in second-quarter profits to well over £500m. This was in part due to the success of their on-going 65th anniversary ad series. 

Brand Britain


“This year’s Olympic Games helped “Brand Britain” beyond anyone’s expectations, with every man and his dog across the world seeing the most powerful “advert” of the year - not a 30 second spot, but hundreds of wonderful brand touch-points joined together to create coherent brand stories: think Torch Relays, opening ceremonies,” says Matt Pye, managing director of the UK branch of Korean firm, Cheil UK.

He thinks that the Olympics mark a turning point for British brands that can associate themselves with something much larger.

“But this year also proved that staying on top is not easy. Big brands can topple as easily as their smaller counterparts.

The BBC – a national treasure during the Olympics quickly turned into national shame over the Savile fiasco, while and Comet’s ‘You know where to come’ is yet another high street name to vanish…”

So go forth and advertise responsibly. Try and be entertaining and different, but don’t alienate your audience and never let your brand stagnate.

“Advertising has been built around the concept of a captive audience,” says Tango’s Henry. “But this isn’t necessarily the case anymore.

“Advertising is by and large seen as an intrusion, a bit like people standing outside tube stations with charity clipboards. You can phase it out these days if you want to.”

Be fun, be young, be British. Be whatever you want, or moreover whatever you need to be, but just don’t shoot yourself in the leg while doing it. Everyone will be watching, even if they’re not really paying attention.


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