ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Mars

By Rob Alexander, the global planning director at JWT, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 September 2005 12:00AM

The jingle for Mars - "A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play" - is tattooed on my brain. None of your fancy and slightly unsatisfactory Double Deckers or Crunchies - this is a proper chocolate bar. It was something your mum wouldn't buy you (Milky Way anyone?) but your dad might.

The Mars Bar is as much a part of the fabric of Britain as crap trains, fish 'n' chips, The Sun, football and complaining about the weather. Its advertising has the same quality. Watching a reel is like a BBC2 documentary on fast-forward: 44 years of advertising that reflects the changing nature of Britain - it's a sociological thesis in 30-second chunks. The aspirations, self-image and outlook of the British visibly changing from one decade to the next.

From the 60s, where it's Arran sweaters, horse riding and country living (1), to the Crosbie family working on the market stall (2) and then relaxing playing golf (and winning obviously) in the early 80s, Mars Bar's offer to the British consumer remained unchanged: the energy to get you through what you have to do and on to what you want. What did change was what we aspired to do and be.

By the 80s, there's a foray into macho Americana (3): skydiving, vending-machine-punching machismo. This execution has not aged well - what happened to my Mars Bar?

The advertising stayed in America but got much better - the dying native American Indian being taken to the mountain top by his grandson and instead of popping his moccasins, after a sly munch of a Mars he's asking to be set up with the young, and presumably nubile, Little Smoke (5). It's a great example of advertising that speaks to you despite not showing the audience - advertising that communicates the amazing energy for life that's in that bar without showing the slice of life. It's my favourite commercial on the reel.

And on to the 90s - "boys will be boys" - back from the US and trying to get in touch with real life but missing it by a yard or two (4). And did we really have facial hair like that?

Finally, on to "pleasure you can't measure" (6), the most recent campaign based on everyday things that bring sunshine to our lives - things that obviously include that good old bar from Mars. It's rooted in an understanding of how we feel about Mars Bars: a little guilty pleasure but absolutely part of our lives.

One of the things that looking at 44 years of Mars Bar advertising shows is how much we've learned about food. At some point in the past 30 years, someone decided that a voiceover that talked of "all the goodness of milk, sugar, glucose and chocolate" wasn't going to cut it. Hold on a moment, aren't glucose and sugar rather similar?

The health experts, the dieticians, nutritionists and probably Saint Jamie Oliver himself will all warn you against the evils of chocolate bars. But, by way of a warm-up for writing this (very taxing) Private View, I ate a Mars Bar for the first time in a couple of years.

And, my God, you can taste that sugar and glucose. But it did remind me of how bloody great they are when you're hungry - or at 3am the night before a pitch. That's why the brand has been part of British life for so long, and it's why it's going to be for a long time to come.

Just probably not a bar a day, or not without a lot of gym work, anyway.

1. MARS BAR Title: Horse riders Agency: D'Arcy Year: 1961 2. MARS BAR Title: The Crosbie family Agency: D'Arcy Year: 1983 3. MARS BAR Title: Parachute - you got it Agency: D'Arcy Year: 1995 4. MARS BAR Title: Boys will be boys Agency: D'Arcy Year: 1998 5. MARS BAR Title: American Indian father and son Agency: D'Arcy Year: 1997 6. MARS BAR Title: Polished Agency: Grey Year: 2002

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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