Nowadays we can all just skip past television adverts, but back in the 80s you couldn’t, and because they were on so often they really are a snapshot of our lives that can evoke so many memories. Many adverts became cultural touchpoints; just look at the Man from Del Monte ads, the Ferrero Rocher ad, Milk Tray or Guinness. These are adverts that many of us still reference today in casual conversation. I am Scottish but I’m now living in England and I quite often find myself referencing Scottish TV adverts which must have only aired in Scotland because nobody at all down here gets the reference and they just think I’ve gone crazy. So, as an outlet for my love for these Scottish ads, I thought I’d get them down in a Top Ten list. Some of these are fun memories if you happen to be Scottish, but others are genuine classics. I’m sure I’ve probably missed a few, so please hit me up in the comments if you can think of any others.
First up, there are a few that I couldn’t find on YouTube. I’d love to see these again. Most of these were just cool little jingles or quirky adverts or were just played so often that they burnt into your very soul.
Slater Hogg & Howison
I can’t really remember the ad too much but it just had a very catchy jingle “Slater, Hogg & Howison, Buy a house, sell a house”. So simple.
The legend that is Dougie Donnelly talking about this furniture store but with the strapline that confused many a young Scot and really had to be read to be understood… “Sterling, Tillicoutry near Stirling”.
I have such a vague memory of this one. I kind of remember very simple graphics, almost like it was a print advert that had been put on the TV. With I think a cartoon guy perhaps ringing a bell like a town cryer? Maybe I’m remembering wrong. But the one bit I can’t ever get out of my head is the catchphrase which would only work as a clever double meaning in Scotland, “Would ye credit it? Morris’s would.” I can’t even remember if it was Morris’s or Morrisons though, so obviously the ad didn’t really do its job!
What’s It Called? Cumbernauld!
Cumbernauld is a new town that was founded in the 50s, but had a big marketing push in the late 80s with this ad campaign. You can imagine that whenever anyone asked, in normal daily life “What’s it called?” some eejit would lean over and shout “Cumbernauld!”. Still happens to this day. And I’m normally that eejit.
Irn Bru – Baby
Irn Bru’s advertising is legendary. Just like the drink is held in god-like status in Scotland (Scotland is apparently the only nation on Earth where Coca-Cola is not the no.1 selling soft drink). The very cool, irreverent, marketing of Irn Bru, coupled with its national pride, must have something to do with its success. These next two adverts were part of a new edgy campaign in the 90s. They didn’t quite make my Top Ten but I had to have them here. Irn Bru got four adverts in the Top Ten so they’re still well represented. This Baby one is hilarious and is actually very recent, being shown in 2012.
Irn Bru – Sweet
Irn Bru had a series of ads, in the late 90s I think, or possibly early 2000s, which all lasted about 10 seconds each. There was no real structure or story to them but they just appealed to me and I remember loving this one from the first time I saw it.
Irn Bru – Sing Song
This one came out in 2003 and is an example of the quirky advertising style that Irn Bru had. Not at all what you’re expecting. Obviously it goes without saying that this is totally a product of it’s time and there’s no way they could make an advert like that now. I’m not actually totally sure if this one was banned back in the day? Some sites are saying that it was. Obviously today’s society is much more educated about transgender issues, even though we’re just 13 years on, but back in 2003 there wasn’t even really prejudice, it was just total lack of awareness, and therefore this ad was just random and funny. Like I say, it would absolutely not work today.
Knorr Stock Cubes – Hen Night
“All that way, just to pick up a chicken?”. Classic.
Hamlet Cigars – Photo Booth
This isn’t strictly a Scottish ad, so I haven’t included it in the list, but as it stars famous Scots TV comedian Gregor Fisher I just had to include it somewhere. One of the best adverts ever.
So here goes the official Top Ten list.10. Knorr Stock Cubes – Pea and Ham
Another one from Knorr here, and one that again made its way into popular culture. “Pea and Ham? From a chicken?”. I say this every time I see Pea and Ham soup in a shop. Every. Single. Bloody. Time. Annoyingly this YouTube version seems to have lost its audio but I thought I would add it below anyway.
There was a time when chin faces were everywhere wasn’t there? This ad took that concept one stage further and featured the fictional band ‘The Chinheads’. The ad was actually directed by the director of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Aha’s Take on Me and Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing!
Irn Bru again. I won’t say too much about this one as there is a similar one higher up the list. This is the one that I remember seeing the most on TV myself though, and I often think about it whenever I’m sweeping up leaves on my drive!
I’m not sure the official name of this one as it is often referred to as either Head to Head or Talking Heads, but it’s another great advert from McEwan’s Lager. Very quirky animation and a great song.
A fantastic Escher-inspired, dystopian future. Who wouldn’t crave a nice cold beer after pushing a stone up a hill for eternity, huh?
The Blues Brothers is one of my all time favourite films and I’ve been a long time fan of lager too, but I seem to remember loving these ads from before I experienced either of those things, at about 10 years old. So I guess my love of them only grew. I’ve included two versions here as I can’t really separate them. They’re both the same sort of ad and they both have funny punchlines, again that I often reference in real life. I’m sure I can remember a third ad that had the other punchline that only Scottish people would understand, “Is that no heavy, Wullie?” “Naw, Special”, but I can’t seem to find it online.
You know how you get some advert jingles that stay in your head for eternity? This is one of them for me. This still pops into my head whenever I hear gospel music, the words “I believe” or even just the phrase “half price”! I’m lucky it’s a good song then. This advert was shown for a long, long time I seem to remember. They got their money’s worth.
This Irn Bru one might not be as well known but I absolutely love it, and loved it from the first time I saw it. I’ve always been a fan of spoofs and this obviously spoofs all the cheesy Coke and Pepsi ads. Another example of Irn Bru’s cheeky personality. Very clever and very well done.
So here we are. Two classic ads in the top spots. Irn Bru is just legendary for adverts in Scotland, so it’s impressive it’s been knocked off the top spot. The phrase “Made in Scotland, from Girders” is just engrained in every Scotsperson’s brain from birth, and I love this classic ad with the “Hey you, mind ma Irn Bru” line. When the bottle makes a dent in the steam roller, it’s the epitomy of Irn Bru being a hard man’s drink, but it’s great that they got a little ginger kid to be the face of it.
I don’t think it was ever in doubt what was going to be no.1. This classic song by Dougie Maclean is probably in Scotland’s top three of unofficial national anthems (alongside Flower of Scotland, which is pretty much official now, and also Loch Lomond by Runrig). It’s a brilliantly made advert about an office worker who gives up his boring, stressful office job in dirty, busy, angry London and goes back to sunny, leafy Scotland for a nice pint with his cheerful mates. Very romantic and perhaps not totally realistic but one that must stir the national pride in any Scot that watches it I’m sure.