THE FIRST 100 YEARS OF JWT & UNILEVER 1902-2002: Private View 2000s

By RICHARD SAUNDERS, a creative director at J. Walter Thompson London, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 22 November 2002 12:00AM

One hundred years of JWT and Unilever. And I've been at Thompsons for nearly a third of them. Like people say to the old codger sitting in the snug nursing his half of mild: "You must have seen a few changes then."

OK, let's see just what has changed as our new millennium comes of age (which, given that the 60s didn't start till about 1963, might not even have happened yet).

Over the other side of the pond, they've been drinking iced tea forever.

Which may very well explain why the makers of Lipton Brisk have enlisted the services of a plasticine Elvis, along with various other popular music icons past and present, to inject a little street cred with a fine rendition of Jailhouse Rock.

This side of the pond, however, persuading us Brits to drink tea in this peculiar fashion is clearly a whole new ball game (as they say that side of the pond). "Don't knock it until you try it" exhort the posters for Lipton Ice Tea. Well, the millennium's young, but maybe breath-holding shouldn't be the order of the day for the folks at Lipton.

Now once upon a time, miniature flying saucers came from the sweet shop, tasted of cardboard and were filled with sherbet. Nowadays, it would appear, they're filled with detergent. Persil Capsules are clearly designed for 21st Century People who can't even be bothered to fill one of those little plastic balls old-fashioned 20th century folk used to lob into the wash. What is a Mum, indeed?

Well, for starters, she's hardly likely to relish the idea of cooking up fresh pasta for her kids. Far better to let the little treasures fend for themselves. As one of the American kids in the Ragu Express (ready in three-and-a-half minutes) spot so eloquently puts it: "Pasta? As a snack? You people!" Quite.

And what kind of world are these little cherubs going to grow up in? Well, with all this doom-mongering about Mother Earth coming to the boil, little wonder the folks at NPD came up with Thermasilk Heat Activated Shampoo. "Heat is beautiful," it says, and you certainly shouldn't argue with a dame who uses a dragon as a hairdryer.

Mind you, you should see what the lady in the Organics poster's up to.

It's as true today as it was in old J. Walter's time that the first responsibility of any piece of communication is to be noticed. Something that this execution achieves in spades. Legend has it that when the Bearded One sold up shop in '16, he reckoned they'd gone about as far as they could go. Reckon he was wrong.

Talking about the good old days, remember when the Oxo family used to sit around the table moaning about their food? Not any more they don't (leastways, not at JWT). Instead, take one bunch of mates sitting around the telly, stir in a pinch of sparkling dialogue, "marinade four men until the mistaken belief that they can cook has developed", and you've got as good a way as any of celebrating the end of a wonderful relationship.

So here we are, 100 years on, in a world of instant pasta and little UFOs in your washing machine and shampoo you nuke. Ch-ch-ch-changes indeed, as Mr Bowie would say. New-fangled products come and old-fangled products go, but brands have an amazing capacity to endure. And if you want proof, look no further than some of the names above.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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