ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Woolworths

Woolworths may have a US heritage, but most of us relate to it as part of British society. In 1909, Woolworths opened its first UK store in Liverpool (no mention of "nick & mix" please).

The retail offering has always fallen into the general store category, and this, by default, has led to broad and sometimes extravagant TV advertising campaign briefs.

Looking back over these six commercials, I'm struck by two things. First, that all of the executions feature a relevant storyline that amplifies the product range message. And, second, that none of the ads takes itself too seriously.

In the late 70s, the campaign strategy was "the wonder of Woolworth".

It was a big hit and, in 1977, a Christmas spectacular featuring Georgie Fame hit the screens (2). This was two minutes long and featured Tony Blackburn, Henry Cooper, Gerald Harper and Sir Jimmy Young along with the dulcet tones of Georgie Fame. An amazing 30 product offers were shown, line listed and priced.

Woolworths' Christmas 1989 range was promoted through Scargill the butler.

This showed that the upper classes were happy to shop at Woolworths and the ad's 30 seconds of footage without a single line listing was an unusual, if brave, strategy.

By the 90s, Woolworths was firmly established as a leading seller of children's clothing, driven by the success of the Ladybird brand. In 1995, a 30-second Ladybird spring collection commercial aired. This communicated exclusivity, range, quality and durability using a spoof of Spike Milligan's Q10.

Although many of us will have good levels of recall relating to "the wonder of Woolworth" campaign, it's fair to say that the "Woolworths Winter Wonderland" strategy probably also scores highly. During the late 90s and early 00s, versions of the Winter Wonderland soundtrack were used regularly as a signature to assist cut through and differentiation.

To complement this, a 90-second creative featuring Keith the alien appeared in 1997 (1). Interestingly, only seven products featured in the ad, compared with the 30 in "Georgie Fame". For Woolworths, renowned for incorporating "celebrity talent", the use of a puppet was a new direction. However, although Keith the alien was well received by the public, Woolworths' senior management was less comfortable with a green felt alien as brand spokescreature.

The Christmas 2001 campaign, "you might forget what you came in for" (5), is remembered primarily for the use of Ant and Dec and Des Lynam.

The campaign's plan was to communicate that, with so much choice in store you could be attracted to unplanned purchases. Equally, your take-out could be that of forgetfulness.But it all makes for yet another light-hearted and easy-to-watch 30-second commercial.

Wooly & Worth become the clever branding vehicle used by Woolworths from 2004 (6). This comedy duo was used to communicate range, service and product offers. In this case, our furry friends rap about a £9.97 CD offer, topped off with the apt strap line: "Let's have some fun."

Woolworths advertising will always have a place in my heart. Fond memories from my childhood of seeing those extravagant toy-filled commercials each Christmas are matched with a personal wish of business success for a brand fighting against some bigger, more boring and yet more powerful competitors.

1. WOOLWORTHS WINTER WONDERLAND Title: Keith the alien Agency: Bates Dorland Year: 1997 2. WOOLWORTHS Title: Georgie Fame Agency: Allen, Brady & Marsh Year: 1977 3. WOOLWORTHS CHRISTMAS RANGE Title: Scargill the butler Agency: Bates Dorland Year: 1989 4. WOOLWORTHS LADYBIRD SPRING COLLECTION Title: Piano Agency: Bates Dorland Year: 1995 5. WOOLWORTHS CHRISTMAS RANGE Title: You might forget what you came in for Agency: Bates Year: 2001 6. WOOLWORTHS POUNDS 9.97 CDS Title: Wooly & Worth rap Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty Year: 2005

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