Rachel Bilson

The stories behind the TV adverts

The stories behind the TV adverts

First published date January 13 2015 Amended date February 19 2016

Some of the best adverts can see some simple, but the creative development and research can be considerable and extensive.  Find out some of the stories behind the best-loved adverts.


Levis 501s ‘Laundrette’, 1985

Such an archetypal advert of the ‘80s it hard to remember that this was set in ‘50s. The advert by John Hegarty and Barbara Noakes at BBH was created as a response Levis 501’s dwindling sales.

The ad track ‘Grapevine’ was the first song from a Levis ad to enter the charts, a strategy continued by the brand for several campaigns.  This new phenomenon of ‘integrated marketing’ allowed a brand to target customers from several angles.

Oh and another thing, Nick Kamen only got the part on condition he lost weight!

Watch the original advert here.


Guinness ‘The Surfer’, 1999

The Surfer is one of the most highly regarded adverts of recent years. The advert went on to win more awards than any other commercial in 1999 and in 2002 was voted the best ad of all time in a poll conducted by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times.

Part of the 'Good Things Come to Those Who Wait' campaign, the ad compares the story of Hawaiian surfers waiting for the ultimate wave with the anticipation for the perfect pint of Guinness.

Jonathan Glazer who went on to make the feature films Sexy Beast and Under the Skin directed the advert. The special effects were filmed in collaboration with Framestore who created the visuals for Gravity, winner of the 2014 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

See what all the fuss was about here.


Tourism Australia ‘So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’, 2006

This advert invited people to Australia by asking ‘So where the bloody hell are you?’

This advert acted as a mirror to the cultural differences between the Brits and the Aussies with the Advertising Standards Agency baulking at the use of the word bloody and moving the advert to post-watershed before demanding that the billboard adverts were taken down entirely.

For all the some controversy and spoof this advert spawned it unfortunately didn’t increase visitor numbers.

Check it out here.

And the spoof one from New Zealand here.


Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas is for Sharing’, 2014

Sainsbury’s Christmas TV ad, developed in conjunction with the British Legion, was inspired by an extraordinary event of the First World War: the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Lengthy research went in to the TV advert to right down the badge of the soldier’s uniform and the recipe the biscuit was baked to. This advert gained a lot of publicity in a head-to-head battle with the John Lewis ‘Monty’ campaign as well as drawing criticism for exploiting the horrors of WWI to sell groceries.

Watch this video on the story behind the advert.

British Heart Foundation ‘Legacy’, 2014

50% of research into cardiovascular disease by the British Heart Foundation is funded through gifts given in wills. In 2014 the BHF launched a TV campaign to increase the number of people donating this way.

Watch the emotional stories of these families who have been directly affected by cardiovascular disease.


Budweiser ‘Puppy Love’, 2014

Budweiser's Super Bowl 2014 commercial followed the special friendship between the Clydesdales and a puppy. Designed to pack an emotional punch with horse lovers, puppy lovers and anyone with a human heart, the advert was seen by 111 million viewers, ending with #bestbuds and going on to gain huge Twitter traction.

Watch the story behind the advert here.


If all these examples have got you feeling inspired, start by having a look at the advertising courses on offer and who knows where your career could take you. 

Rachel Bilson

Rachel has worked in recruitment and marketing for education for the last 15 years. She has coordinated government campaigns to recruit teachers for maths and science and managed student recruitment from East Asia for two of the UK's leading universities. In her current role at London College of Communication she is developing short courses and professional training, drawing on the College's expertise as a world-leader in communication education. Between 2005 and 2007 Rachel took a break from daily slog to teach English in Japan. She still misses the food.