A Word From Our Sponsors… Hovis Through the Ages


Some adverts become classics (a term that is, of course, always in the eye of the beholder) because they are clever or cute or funny, some because they beautifully made, ooze atmosphere and seep into your consciousness, evoking the spirit of an era.

This week’s classic commercials fall into the latter category.

The Hovis adverts from the 70s were mini-masterpieces, recalling a simpler, more innocent time, albeit an era where the working classes faced a constant struggle to survive, thrive and, yes, put bread on the table.

The three adverts in the video below (from 1973, 1974 and 1979) beautifully capture the spirit of a bygone era, as described by elderly narrators remembering their lost youth in the north of England and the simple pleasures that meant so much when they were kids.

The three ads were made by the legendary Collett Dickenson Pearce advertising agency, who were responsible for many classic TV commercials, including highly successful campaigns for Hamlet cigars, McEwans lager and Cinzano, all of which have been previously featured in A Word From Our Sponsors.

They are all wonderful – and instantly recognisable and identifiable with Hovis thanks to their use of Dvorak‘s New World Symphony on the soundtrack – but the second one, Bike Ride, is the one that has really passed into TV history.

Frequently voted among at or near the top of polls of the nation’s favourite TV ads, it was directed by a young Ridley Scott, who went on to direct such classic movies as Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator.

Scott’s advert has continued to be dusted off and frequently rebroadcast for the better part of 35 years.

However, in 2008, to mark the 122nd anniversary of the brand, Hovis commissioned a new, 122-second advert. And it surpassed even its illustrious predecessors.

The inspired commercial explores the changing face of Britain (more specifically, northern England) over the course of those 122 years, in a style in keeping with the previous Hovis ads.

It begins with a Victorian lad buying a loaf of Hovis and as he returns home with the bread, he also travels through time, witnessing landmark events from British history such as a suffragette march, the effects of two world wars, the Queen’s coronation and the miner’s strike.

A truly inspired idea, brilliantly executed.

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