Top advertising icons that are no more

Marlboro ManAdvertising icons like the Marlboro Man (pictured), Beattie and the Bisto Kids have generated millions in 'brand equity' by convincing consumers to pay more for their products. But changing tastes and tougher regulation have led to their demise. Who else has vanished from our screens?
Here we list some of the most famous icons of the 20th century that have disappeared from our television screens, cinemas, magazines and billboards. They've been retired as firms seek other ways to convince us our lives are a meaningless hell - unless, of course, we wise up and hand over our cash.

Top advertising icons that are no more
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Top advertising icons that are no more

The lone cowboy quadrupled sales of Philip Morris' Marlboro cigarettes when he first appeared in the 1950s. Despite increasing evidence from mid-century scientists of health risks associated with smoking, Marlboro Man was influential in persuading the public to continue to light up.

Remember the little mascots for Robertson's jam? People sent away in their millions to the jam makers for golly brooches and other golly-related memorabilia. When Golly retired in 2002, the official reason was that children had lost interest in him. But many suspected the forces of political correctness were at play. Over 20m gollies were sent out by Robertson's in their heyday. Many have become valued collectors' items.

A boy and girl in ragged clothes catch the smell of Bisto gravy on the breeze and sigh longingly "Ahhh... Bisto." The advert, drawn by cartoonist Wilf Owen, first appeared in 1919. The gambit aimed to capture an 'Oliver Twist' quality, appealing to the 'urchin' segment of the working class market.

The yellow talking cartoon bird made his calls to advertise Post Office Telecommunications (now BT) perched on telephone wires. His catchphrase was "Make someone happy with a phone call". Bernard Cribbens provided the voice.

Beatrice Bellman was a popular character from a series of TV adverts by British Telecom, famously played by Maureen Lipman. She was a stereotypical Jewish mother and grandmother, with a heart of gold. Her adventures mostly involved nagging her long-suffering family over the phone. The name Beattie was a play on 'BT', as British Telecom later became known.

Any BP ad showing green fields and clean seas. Nowadays inappropriate for reasons too obvious to outline here.

Toilet paper makers Andrex have chosen to digitise their iconic puppy for the first time since the dog hit our screens in 1972. The series of more than 120 adverts featuring a live puppy made even something as utilitarian as toilet paper appear cute - no mean feat.

A blue floating shost-like creature with a long pointed nose, he featured in an educational animation programme created by Nick Spargo for British Gas in 1975. Willo's job was to extol the virtues of gas. Actor Kenneth Williams provided the voice. Willo later went on to great success in his own TV series, before retiring into obscurity.


Can't touch it

Brands are already estimated to account for more than a tenth (12%) of shareholder value across leading companies and in some sectors that figure is even higher. In the retail sector, brands can account for up to 70% of a company's value.

Brands could be set to grow further in importance. Big investors are placing more importance on companies' intangible assets, in other words anything that isn't a physical asset.

Emotional business

The most important intangible asset, typically, is a firm's advertising brand, the image we hold in their minds when we think of a company. In other words, the way we feel when we remember the Bisto Kids or someone's granny on the phone.

It might be hard to imagine the Andrex puppy or Marlboro Man making such a difference to a firm's bottom line, but advertising icons have become the lifeblood of big business. And they've done so by playing on our emotions to sell.

So the next time you're out shopping and you pick up a tin of branded beans rather than a supermarket's own label, beware. You're succumbing to an advertising campaign.

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