"Beanz Meanz Heinz" might just be the most famous advertising slogan ever written. It was coined in 1967 by copywriter Maurice Drake in the Victoria pub in Mornington Crescent. Fifty years later, it’s still going strong. Trouble is, Heinz has now made it "official". The Heinz people have changed the name of their beans to Beanz. Don’t they realise how much we hate it when "they" co-opt "our" affectionate nicknames? Like when Barclays started calling its cash machines Hole in the Wall and Islington Council changed the name of Caledonian Road Swimming Baths to Cally Pool. "No," we cry. "You’re not allowed to call it that." Heinz was doubtless advised by a brand agency to "take ownership" of the word Beanz as part of a "Holistic 360 comms strategy". Foolz.
A rare example of an advertising jingle rewritten to become a big hit record, rather than the other way round. David Dundas took this tune to number three in the summer of ’76. It still sounds great and, for those of us who can remember it, nothing brings back that long hot summer more vividly than this lovely, innocent ditty. Hang on a minute – maybe not quite so innocent. Look again at the visuals and the message they convey isn’t so much Jeans On but Jeans Off.
Long before the Guinness surfer, there was the Old Spice surfer. His accompanying music – Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – is one of the most famous pieces ever composed but, when this ad first appeared, it was practically unknown. Now it’s associated with fear and terror. Jerry Goldsmith composed something strikingly similar for the soundtrack to The Omen and Carmina Burana is now best known as the music that accompanies not our surfer but the judges on The X Factor. This makes it even more appropriate for Old Spice. Its smell is worse than being possessed by the devil and almost as unwelcome as Simon Cowell.
I’ve long been fascinated by the People’s Republic of Luton Airport. Within its confines, everyone is equal. No luxury lounges, no upgrades, no rich people being whisked through to first class while the poor queue obediently for economy. At Luton Airport, Lorraine Chase’s cockney ingénue and Jeremy Clyde’s suave aristocrat would be absolutely equal. So "Luton Airport" wasn’t just a funny punchline, it became a national catchphrase, because it rang true. For thousands of people, Luton Airport was the first real gateway to a much wider world of sea, sunshine and Campari and soda.
Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer
I know – they sound like the sort of creative team that Mother would hire. Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer were indeed a creative team – guitarist and keyboardist of Dutch prog-rock band Focus and they composed the instrumental masterpiece Hocus Pocus. At school, Focus were revered by prog-rocky sixth-formers. I don’t think I’d heard Hocus Pocus since then, but its use on this ad is exhilarating. The editing and sound design are pitch perfect and would have required an enormous amount of – you know what I’m going to say – focus.
The Honda campaign has been lauded and awarded for so many reasons, but I think the casting of Garrison Keillor as its voiceover is the principal one. That kindly, mellifluous baritone is as relaxed and unhurried as a slow flow of Midwestern molasses. Odd choice for a hitherto dull and technical brand, but Honda had the courage and foresight to cast against type. Which is why it benefited hugely from the warmth and wry intelligence that voice brought to its advertising. When I’m casting voices, I’m frequently asked for someone offbeat and original "like Garrison Keillor". But guess what? Lacking Honda’s courage and foresight, the client invariably opts for someone less original and not half as good.
‘Nuts! Whole hazelnuts!’
Cadbury was always brilliant at ramming product points home in memorable and amusing ways. This commercial is, shall we say, "of its time". The old-fashioned patrician boss, the subservient "dolly bird" secretary but, most of all, the fact that neither of them has a nut allergy.
This commercial was never "of its time". Even in the 1980s, Jenny Logan singing as she vacuumed looked horribly dated. But cheesily kitsch and annoyingly catchy, it became an instant classic. Like "The ambassador’s party", it’s so bad, it’s good. More than good – it’s genius: a dreadful ad to flog a useless product to millions of people who neither needed nor wanted it. Isn’t that the very essence of advertising?
He may not be a household name but Jimmy Helms is a household voice. A fantastic US soul singer who settled in the UK in the 1970s, Jimmy was – and still is – every bit as good as his more famous Motown, Stax and Atlantic contemporaries. Over the past 40 years, if your commercial required an authentic American soul singer, you’d call for Jimmy. It was worth getting him in for his stories alone but, boy, could he sing. In the 1990s, he turned up as frontman of Londonbeat and had a huge hit with this. Have a listen to this rare acoustic version and tell me it isn’t a privilege to work in an industry where Jimmy will come in and sing for you.
Munzie and his ilk
We know how important sound design is to any commercial, but when sound design is the commercial, it becomes absolutely paramount. Here’s a case in point, with sonic wizardry by Munzie Thind. With lesser hands at a lesser desk, this could have been a disaster. Instead, it was a multiple award-winner. Munzie is a superb engineer but he’s not the only one. There are Munzies in practically every sound studio in London – so use them. Take advantage of their experience and expertise. Then even if your choice of voice, music or words aren’t quite as inspired as the 49 examples I’ve listed, you can guarantee one thing: they’ll still sound fantastic.
Paul Burke is an award-winning writer and producer