ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Kit Kat

One of the very first Kit Kat ads in 1955 was set in the school playground at breaktime, appropriately enough. A schoolgirl offers to share her snack with her friend Billy, as they agree how delicious the chocolate and wafer are.

The voiceover, having just finished the shipping forecast, says: "Time for a break, time for a Kit Kat. Four fingers five pence. Two for tuppence ha'penny."

Now, despite my having started at J. Walter Thompson when Jeremy Bullmore was just a trainee guru, the ad wasn't one of mine. But it was obvious, even then, that this was a great product, with great packaging and, with a little tweak, a great endline. And, within four years, it had moved on, from my namesake trying to pull in the playground, to a more entertaining and engaging break (1).

"Fisherman" featured a young Bernard Cribbins doing his early "You don't want to do that" impersonation, as he pestered a fellow angler with the joys of Kit Kat, only to find he was already enjoying his break.

By 1976, with full colour in full swing, the casting and performance continued to get better (2). Arthur English, this time, played the role of night security guard who believed he'd found an intruder only to discover someone working late, so inevitably they share the Kit Kat. Beautifully lit, beautifully shot.

Probably one of the best-remembered ads was the roller-skating pandas from 1989 (6). By this time, the brand had become such a part of our culture it could afford to have the photographer miss their performance because of his break. A great ad loved by all.

I always felt that Kit Kat was a great example of Stephen King's view that if you can't outspend the competition, you have to outthink them.

Because there never seemed to me to be the number of ads, nor the spend that other great campaigns appeared to get. But product, pack and line had become just as popular as the big spenders.

They certainly must have been doing something right as the following year they managed to persuade Paul Weiland to direct "quackers", a story of two duck hunters trying to coax their prey with their imitation quacks (3). They succeed only in finding each other so they have a break, with the ritual "snap" finally bringing all the ducks out of hiding. A beautiful piece that the anti-hunting lobby would ban now. Although at that time, I'm sure I remember JWT still had fox-hunting round Berkeley Square on Fridays.

By now, having all grown up with the brand, they were able to use the original Thunderbirds opening credits to great effect, as the "5,4,3,2,1 ..." came to a grinding halt for a break (4).

Kit Kat was by now a brand that could, quite rightly, use cult references as it grew and grew. But the past few years have proved difficult for even the strongest of brands. So I'm glad that the latest ad, "library", has its roots firmly in "Have a break, have a Kit Kat" (5). They enjoy their break while making a real racket before going back to silence. And while I may not be old enough to have been in the playground in 1955, it'll probably come as no surprise that I wouldn't have changed the endline, nor would I have lost the silver foil on the four-finger bar. But it's still in there punching above its weight while Mr Bullmore is now a fully fledged master guru.

And as Jeremy says, a big idea is just a little idea that's been around for 12 years. That makes Kit Kat one of the longest, biggest breaks in advertising.

1. KIT KAT Title: Fishermen Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1959 2. KIT KAT Title: Things go snap Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1976 3. KIT KAT Title: Quackers Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1990 4. KIT KAT Title: Thunderbirds Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1992 5. KIT KAT Title: Library Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 2004 6. KIT KAT Title: Pandas Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1989

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off the inaugural issue of Campaign's monthly print offering than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).