THE FIRST 100 YEARS OF JWT & UNILEVER 1902-2002: Private View 1970s

Before we discuss what Unilever was up to in the 70s, I thought we might have a brief reminder of what the world was up to 30 years ago. So here are a few headlines.

Edward Heath is Prime Minister. Jimi Hendrix dies. Britain adopts decimal currency. The Watergate scandal. The Joy of Sex is published. The first test tube baby is born. (These two are not in any way associated.) The Exorcist scares millions. Pol Pot takes over Cambodia. Bill Gates and Paul Allen start a company called Microsoft. Winter of discontent.

On a personal level, I was splitting my time equally between attending Slough Grammar School and trying desperately hard not to be repellent to members of the opposite sex.

So you can imagine my delight upon seeing the new Denim commercial. The bad news was this product was aimed at "men who don't have to try too hard". Sadly this didn't appear to include me because when all you've got is a small moped and spots you have to try very bloody hard indeed.

However the possibility of having an attractive woman put her hand down my shirt just by putting on this aftershave proved hard to resist. Besides which I felt it was time to upgrade to something a bit more sophisticated than Blue Stratos. The greatest compliment I can pay the Denim campaign is that with the benefit of hindsight it seems to be the Godfather of the very wonderful Lynx campaign.

Persil advertising throughout the 70s demonstrated many of the attributes we're familiar with today. Then as now Unilever believed in engendering its advertising with a healthy dose of humanity, as opposed to P&G's science lesson. It is this approach that is responsible for sustaining this brand not just for years but for decades.

Celebrity endorsement was as popular in the 70s as it is now. Lux has a long track record in this department and the two commercials I've been asked to look at both feature what were seriously big stars of the time - Julie Christie and Sophia Loren. The interesting difference between then and now is that 30 years ago, all the celebrities really had to do was say that they used the product whereas these days they're required to do a little more.

Harmony Hairspray was also launched in the 70s with the claim that you couldn't tell whether or not a girl was wearing it. This proposition arrived in the form of just five words: "Is she or isn't she?" The line, at least, entered the national vocabulary for a while which is no mean achievement for a haircare brand.

By this point in the review, I have to say how constantly struck I am by advertising as a reference point. Each time the tape rolls forward to reveal another ad from three decades ago it instantly puts you in mind of what you were doing and where you were doing it.

The launch of Sunsilk hairspray was something else that occurred in the 70s. We're told that Sunsilk's new hairsray is "as soft as a whispered secret". Well, I'm not entirely sure about that but the production values seemed high for the time so I checked the factfile and discovered that the first film ("lake") was directed by none other than Hugh Hudson and the second ("conservatory") was directed by Adrian Lyne. Did they work?

Well the brand is still on our shelves 30 years on, so I guess they did.

An even better example of a forever brand was and still is Oxo. In the early 70s "the family" was yet to be born; instead we have a forerunner, the Oxo "couple". Katie and Philip.

This work is simply a part of 70 years of diligent undertaking by thousands of people that led to something really quite remarkable. It turned a cube of Sodium 5 Riboneucleotide into a much loved brand and a household name.

Unilever has a tradition of approving that sort of thing, long may it continue.

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