Ad Fab (1996)
If you are a regular viewer of my videos on YouTube then you will know that I am a fan of classic adverts from throughout the years, I’ve always been as interested in what appears between the programmes on TV as well as the actual programmes, and I remembered recently that I had a VHS which featured a look back at some of the most famous adverts in history which was hosted by the much-missed John Peel seemingly in his front room.
Now I have enjoyed a lot of John Peel’s work over the years, but I must admit that I never really listened to his long-running radio programme, but I liked just about everything else he did, including his TV appearances on various shows, his Radio Times column where he wrote about his life and family, and he had the most wonderful voice, which unsurprisingly meant that he got a lot of voiceover work including and contributed to many adverts, and as a self-confessed advert fan John was a great choice to host this VHS.
Ad Fab (subtitled The Classic Collection Of British TV Commercials) was released in 1996 and was a 70-minute programme that looked back at some of the most famous adverts to have appeared on the screen in this country. The first advert to appear on British television was for Gibbs SR toothpaste when ITV launched (in London at least) in September 1955. Since then companies have worked hard to get their message across to viewers and there were also some interviews with various figures in the advertising industry including directors talking about what it takes to create a memorable and successful campaign.
One way in which advertising can work is to hire celebrities. Even now when people think of the drink Cinzano they remember the amusing series of adverts with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins, and lots of famous people have appeared in adverts, with other memorable ones including Dudley Moore and his chickens with Tesco. There was also a look at such famous campaigns as the PG Tips chimps, Yellow Pages with JR Hartley and those creepy ones for Dunlop tyres.
There was also a look at what makes a successful slogan, including such memorable ones as “Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach” and “Carlsberg: probably the best lager in the world” plus other things like the importance of the music used, how to get your message across to viewers whether your budget is lavish and expensive or cheap and cheerful, and how improvements in technology have helped to create better special effects to make adverts look more impressive than ever.
One of my favourite adverts that appears in the programme is a rather old-looking one for Esso featuring the animated character Senor Buffo which seemed to be popular with viewers at the time and was voiced by Dick Emery. I remember laughing a lot the first time I saw it on the tape, I just like the way he sings a song and then the crowd join in, and their mouths all move in the same way at the same time and the people in the back rows all just seem to be floating heads.
Ad Fab (which surprisingly is rated 15 despite it not containing that much risque content) was a very interesting programme, and there seems to be very little about it online and I don’t know if anyone else owns a copy or has heard of it which is why I wanted to share it with other advert fans. John Peel came across as very enthusiastic about adverts because he felt that they always evoke good memories of the past and he revealed that his favourites included the ones for John Smith’s bitter, Heat Electric with the Creature Comforts characters, and Cinzano.
As far as I know Ad Fab hasn’t been shown on TV but there have been some TV programmes about the history of advertising, including Washes Whiter on BBC2 in 1990, which was repeated on BBC4 in more recent years and was a very good programme. There have also been shows looking at the world of funny or weird adverts such as Tarrant On TV, and there was also a look at the 100 greatest adverts on Channel 4 with Graham Norton when those lists shows were all the rage. And that’s why some people find the adverts as entertaining as the programmes.