First colour TV ad: 50 years on from Birds Eye's spot

Spot for frozen peas is likely to sit uncomfortably with today's audiences.

Birds Eye: first colour TV ad had somewhat poor choice of words
Birds Eye: first colour TV ad had somewhat poor choice of words

50 years ago today (15 November), Birds Eye launched the UK's first-ever colour TV ad, promoting the brand’s veggie-focused "Eat in full colour" campaign.

Created by Lintas and set to the ominous sound of panpipe music, the spot follows a young girl pottering about in the countryside alone.

With reference to Birds Eye's approach of picking only the youngest, sweetest peas, it ends with the girl sitting on a fence (still unsupervised), alongside the unfathomably problematic tagline: "We pick 'em younger."

Commenting on the film, Steve Challouma, marketing director at Birds Eye, said: "Heritage is a fantastic asset for any business. With brands rich in history, you’re instantly tapping into the memories of consumers and their feelings of nostalgia, as well as inspiring employees throughout the business behind the story of the brand's evolution, which engenders engagement and a sense of belonging." 

The ad first aired at 10.05am on ATV in the Midlands during Thunderbirds – a slot that Unilever (which had acquired the frozen-foods company 12 years earlier) reportedly bought for just £23.

At the time, it was estimated that 1-2% of the population had a colour TV set, while colour signals could be received only by about half of the country's viewers.

Challouma continued: "While the 'Garden pea' ad itself is now a little dated, demonstrating how times have changed, it is a landmark advertising moment that has helped bring to life countless campaigns."

Birds Eye recently invested £6m in reprising its "Eat in full colour" campaign, removing said "dated" overtones in favour of singing vegetables.

According to figures published by TV Licensing, more than 6,000 homes in the UK still have black and white TV licences, 1,311 of which are in London. 

At the other end of spectrum, this week ITV unveiled its digital addressable TV platform Planet V, which will enable advertisers and agencies to have more control over their campaign reach via targeting data.

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