Let’s wind the clock back to 2003 – the British confectionery industry’s darkest hour.
Forget about when they changed the name of Marathon to Snickers or rebranded Opal Fruits as Starburst. Forget even the demise of the legendary Aztec Bar – the day that Cadbury’s killed off Wispa was the day the chocolate died.
Fortunately, after a prolonged battle by Wispa fans, Cadbury’s relented and the Wispa arose, phoenix-like from the dead (but without all the fire and flames ‘cos that would just have been messy) last year, after a limited re-release in 2007, and sales have been pretty spectacular ever since.
So spectacular, in fact, that The Choob’s favourite variation of the Wispa, the Wispa Gold (a Wispa topped with soft caramel) will also make a triumphant return to shop shelves in September this year. If we can also get Wispa Mint back as well, all will be well in the chocolate world once more and we can move on to the battle to persuade McVities to start making Gipsy Creams biscuits again…
Wispa was launched nationally in 1983, after a trial release in the north of England in 1981. It’s velvety, bubbly texture was clearly Cadbury’s attempt to take on the Nestle (formerly Rowntree Mackintosh) Aero.
The early Wispa TV adverts featured a pair of stars from a number of popular TV comedies of the day. From what I remember, in the first few adverts, the actors appeared in costume playing their characters from the shows, one of whom was trying to persuade the other one to try a Wispa. However, subsequent ads saw the actors using their real names but still clearly in character, reflecting the fictional roles they played in their shows.
Some of the adverts that sadly don’t appear to be archived anywhere include Dad’s Army‘s Arthur Lowe & John Le Mesurier (their final performances in the roles before they died) and Yes Minister‘s Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne.
Here’s my favourite of the ones I can find, which dates from 1984 and features Jan Francis and Paul Nicholas, who were, at the time, the stars of the BBC1 romantic comedy Just Good Friends (the show, written by Only Fools And Horses creator John Sullivan, is one of the Choob’s guilty TV pleasures and Jan Francis was one of my early TV crushes…):
The next three are, I think, from later in the 1980s and depart from the formula somewhat as the pair of stars in each one were not teamed up in an existing show together:
And finally, jumping ahead to the 1990s and the original launch of Wispa Gold, here we have It Ain’t Half Hot Mum stars Windsor Davies and… er, Windsor Davies (I think the footage of him in costume is recycled from an 80s advert for the original Wispa in which he appeared with It Ain’t Half Hot Mum co-star Don Estelle):