Bob’s Fab Ads (ITV, 1996)
As I’m sure you have realised if you are a regular to this blog and my Twitter and YouTube channel, I am a fan of old adverts. A while ago I wrote a piece on a VHS compilation of classic adverts hosted by John Peel called Ad Fab which has been one of my favourite blog pieces to put together, but the world of TV advertising has been celebrated and analysed much beyond this of course.
There have been several comedy programmes on BBC1 throughout the years which have looked back at funny adverts in the Commercial Breakdown series which has been hosted by comedians including Jasper Carrott and many others, Clive James and Chris Tarrant have hosted equivalent shows on ITV, and Channel 4 also revealed what viewers thought were the 100 greatest TV adverts during the period when list programmes were very popular.
I remember there was another programme that looked back at funny British TV adverts which was called Bob’s Fab Ads and was hosted by the great Bob Monkhouse. This was a one-off hour long show where Bob looked back at famous adverts and he also spoke to a couple of guests who worked in the advertising industry. After discovering that my sister recorded this show I hoped to review it here but we’ve been unable to track down the tape, so I was very pleased when the show was recently uploaded to YouTube by Neil Miles and thanks goes to him for saving some time going through dusty old cupboards.
After Bob had parked his car at the top of the ramp in the studio, he introduced various adverts, and it was clear that he was a fan of what he called mini masterpieces. Most TV adverts only last for 30 seconds, so they have to grab viewers’ attention right away, and many different methods are used. Celebrities might appear, jingles might be made, or there might be a memorable slogan. Humour is of course one way of doing it, and making people laugh will definitely help them remember what you were selling and hopefully they’ll end up buying your brand of dog food even if they don’t have a dog.
When Bob’s Fab Ads was shown, ITV had been running for just over 40 years, and among the classics from the archive shown were famous campaigns for Heineken, PG Tips, John Smith’s and Carling Black Label. There was also a look at some adverts that were now rather old-fashioned or unintentionally humorous including those ones for absurd products such as the “thumb waiter”, a plate which you could stick your thumb through to help grip it which Bob enjoyed mocking.
We also saw adverts for such memorable campaigns as R White’s “secret lemonade drinker”, Maxell’s “me ears are alight”, and Pepsi, and adverts starring the likes of Morecambe and Wise, Leonard Rossiter and Frankie Howerd. Bob also rather gamely admitted that he’d starred in an advert or two looking for laughs as well as sales over the years, and we were shown an advert from 1959 where Bob got a little too overexcited whilst selling a Mars bar.
Bob’s Fab Ads was a great show, it was always enjoyable to watch Bob, and around the time that the show was made in the mid-90s his career was back on the up after he had won over a new generation of fans with his comedy talent. If I ever track down any more similar shows about adverts I’ll review those here too, but until then why not take a look at the show yourself using the video down below!