50 Years of Fame: Top 20 TV ads

We asked you to vote for your favourite TV ad and you picked one that, according to rumour, boosted sales for a rival. Jemima Bokaie reports.

1. CINZANO COLLINS ROSSITER: AIRLINER 1978

The Cinzano series of commercials created an unlikely partnership in Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter and actress Joan Collins. In 'Airliner' we saw the stars aboard an aircraft in which a bumbling Rossiter accidentally pushes the seat recline button of the prudish Melissa (Collins) as she is about to sip her drink. Perfectly timed and skillfully written, the not-quite-slapstick mocked the 'sensationalised' drink commercials of other brands aimed at a younger generation. It was Rossiter who suggested to director Alan Parker the idea of using the old music-hall joke of spilling one's tea - the premise of each of the 10 commercials. He was regularly involved in the choreography and gag lines, often referring to Joan as 'the prop'. By 1981, the ads had become so popular there were rumours of a feature film. But the campaign ended in 1983 when Cinzano decided to take a global marketing route. The mini-films were comedy classics and just as entertaining, if not more so, than the programmes around which they appeared. However, the story goes that sales of rival brand Martini soared as viewers presumed it was the drink being promoted.

2. SMASH MARTIANS 1974

The Smash Martians landed in 1974 in one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time. Featuring a gaggle of giggling mechanical men in space-age suits who wondered at the old-fashioned mashing methods of potato-eating earthlings, the ad was perfect for the space-crazed climate of the 70s. Cadbury originally rejected the idea cooked up by writer Chris Wilkins in favour of something more profound concerning instant mashed potato. However, it wasn't long before the metallic laughter of the bunch of ETs whipped up a wealth of consumer delight. The commercial became so popular that a whole Martian series was created. Mr and Mrs Smash and family were introduced, complete with pet cat and dog. Cadbury's profits soared as Smash became market leader, and ad agency Brooks Fulford Coutts Seresin was inundated with fan mail. The Martians made comebacks in 1992 and 1999, still advising the 'most primitive people' that 'For mash get Smash'.

3. GUINNESS SURFER 1999

Jonathan Glazer's black-and-white masterpiece is one of the most breathtaking commercial images ever to grace British TV screens. Four Polynesian surfers confront the ultimate wave, embodied by a pack of giant white horses surging over the crest, in a stunning synthesis of liquid and muscular motion. Only one man conquers the wave and, as the bassline of Leftfield's Phat Planet dies out, the final moments are silent. The thunderous rush of hooves, flesh and spray was created from footage of surfers in Hawaii and Lipizzaner Stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Cineon, high-tech digital software by Kodak, was used to composite the material and computer graphics added surf and the odd horse's leg where needed. It was 119.5 seconds of artistic brilliance - supposedly the length of time it takes to pour a pint of Guinness and let it settle. Remember: 'Good things come to those who wait.'

4. HAMLET PHOTO BOOTH 1986

A photo booth, a bald man and a cigar called Hamlet. This sequence plays on the old joke that the photo flash always goes off when you're not ready, and we see Gregor Fisher mistime every shot. As Bach's Air on a G-string kicks in, as the flash goes off for the final time the Baldy Man exhales his cigar smoke. Inspired by an incident when copywriter Tim Warner and art director Roy Carruthers lit up on a bus after waiting in the rain, the series ran until the early 90s.

5. ELECTRICITY ASSOCIATION CREATURE COMFORTS 1990

Spawned from the Oscar-winning short film of the same title, the 'Creature comforts' ads were the work of animator Nick Park. A cast of his trademark plasticine animals discussed the benefits of the Electricity Board's service in a fusion of the everyday and the absurd. Who can forget the parrot whose central heating made it possible for him to live in England? Deadpan humour and Park's attention to detail enchanted viewers of all ages. A piece of marketing magic.

6. LEVI'S LAUNDERETTE 1985

Levi's Launderette marked the beginning of a new era in youth advertising. Aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds, the ad was part of a 50s-style campaign by Bartle Bogle Hegarty to boost a flagging jeans market. First broadcast on Boxing Day 1985, the 50s' American scene saw model Nick Kamen undress to the sound of Heard it Through the Grapevine, then wait, in white boxers, for his 501s to wash. Consumers lapped up the retro imagery and Levi's sales rocketed 800%.

7. YELLOW PAGES JR HARTLEY 1983

Yellow Pages is used 3.3m times a day in the UK. Previously promoted as a business directory, Abbott Mead Vickers' two ads in 1983 featured fictional author JR Hartley, played by Norman Lumsden. In the first, an old man combed through Yellow Pages searching for a shop that sold a fly-fishing novel by an unknown author. Warm and engaging, the ad proved a hit. In 1991, the book Fly-Fishing by JR Hartley, by angler Peter Lapsley, became a bestseller.

8. HONDA GRRR 2004

Bunnies, flowers and a song about hate - not your average car ad. Yet Honda's 2004 'Grrr' campaign to promote its first diesel engine was a huge success. Spawned by Wieden & Kennedy, the 90-second animation featured a group of rabbits celebrating Honda's diesel engine to the slightly gruff crooning of Garrison Keillor. Honda has sold 90,000 cars in the UK so far in 2005 - its best-ever performance - and 'Grrr' took top honours at Cannes this year.

9. COCA-COLA HILLTOP 1971

Voted the greatest-ever song from a TV ad by Channel 4 viewers, the New Seekers' soundtrack to Coca-Cola's ad was a marketing masterpiece. Recorded as a radio commercial for Coke in the US in 1970, the smash-hit used a multicultural cast on a hilltop near Rome who mimed 'I'd like to buy the world a Coke'. The execution brought an end to the outdated marketing jingles of the 60s and 70s and set a trend for the use of pop music in contemporary advertising.

10. JOHN SMITH'S PETER KAY - DIVING 2002

Created by TBWA\London as part of John Smith's 'No nonsense' ad strategy, 'Diving' saw Peter Kay impress judges at a diving competition with a 'top bombing' plunge. The comedian admitted to being terrified about performing the stunt, yet his big splash helped win 50 advertising and marketing awards for the company. The ads, aimed at men in their 20s and 30s, promoted a 'no-nonsense ale for a no-nonsense bloke'.

YOUR TOP 20 TV ADS - 11 TO 20 11 VW Golf Changes 1987 12 Carling Black Label Refreshes - Dambusters 1989 13 Hovis Bicycle 1975 14 Tango Orange Man 1992 15 R Whites Secret lemonade drinker 1973 16 BT Beattie - ology 1987 17 Shake 'n' Vac Dancing woman 1979 18 British Airways Global face 1989 19 Nescafe Gold Blend Couple 1987 onward 20 Nike Parklife 1997