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Food Awareness Campaigns

It's got the lot!It all started with the Humphreys – those unseen drinking straw-wielding beasts insidiously snaffling the milk from under the noses of Frank Muir and co. That advert was paid for by Unigate Dairies, but the general message was people weren’t drinking enough milk, period. For the next few years, a slew of these ads – not advocating a particular brand per se, and seeming more like a public service announcement as a result – were all over the telly. The quaint Humphreys mutated into the racier ‘gotta lotta bottle!’ campaign, heralded by a chirpy bit of soft rock which informed us that ‘milk comes in a bottle’, while various tanned examples of calcium-enriched youth cavorted seductively, causing a Mary Whitehouse lookalike to peer disdainfully over the top of her half moon specs-on-a-chain and exclaim, “Well!” More desperately, a dairy-managing Brian Glover pleaded with us to “Use your milkman – don’t let him become a thing of the past!” Other dairy produce got their own, more modest, promotional leg-up. British Cheese created a cartoon country club populated by well-spoken wedges of Double Gloucester and Sage Derby. A squadron of jacket potato paratroopers asked, ‘Sarge, when we get there, it will be butter, won’t it? It won’t be – gulp! – anything else?’ The margarine threat was implicit: ‘No buts, it’s got to be butter!’ Meanwhile, the Meat Marketing Board were clearly worried about the encroaching fashion for vegetarianism. ‘Wot, no meat?’ cried a trio of Robin Askwith-like cheeky cockney lads, as they gate-crashed a couple’s pork-free dinner and regaled them with an impromptu oompah ditty detailing a plethora of exciting serving suggestions for a nice bit of British meat, aided by a marching band of only-just-starting-to-become-unacceptable racial stereotypes and a policeman with a flashing blue light on his head. Meanwhile, posters in butchers’ windows shouted: ‘What’s meat got? It’s got the lot!’ It wasn’t all animal-derived: ‘Make room for the mushrooms!’ sang a male voice choir of cartoon button-caps, marching onto the dinner table in a good-natured bid for fungal Lebensraum, while minimalist cinema verité ads demonstrated faked documentary evidence of the soothing powers of ‘tea – best drink of the day.’ But the least convincing of these unlikely broadcasts was not food-related at all: in the early 1980s, just as pit closures were starting to bite, a cosy family were shown relaxing by a fireplace warmed by ‘Coal: the fuel of the future.’



  1. Chris O

    August 9, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Another example was the campaign for Tea, complete with slogan “Tea – best drink of the day.”

    A remarkable thing, really, and tantamount to an advertising campaign persuading the Chinese to eat rice.

  2. Applemask

    August 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Other “maybe could eat some cheese?” slogans: “Make it Ch’easy!” and the mighty “Any way you please it, CHEESE IT.” Can’t believe you forgot the Rushdie-coined “Cream Cakes: Naughty but Nice (Also Fuck Mohammed)”

    As mentioned, in the go-getting eighties it burst out into adverts for whole industries. “We’re adding value at British Steel.” “Now you know what people see in a Real Fire.” “Electricity – Energy for Life” (intoned by no less a person than Motherfuckin’ Lawrence Olivier), and of course the blunt “The Ten Water And Sewage Businesses of England And Wales.”

  3. Paul

    October 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Lots of potential slapped faces around closing time at the local boozer with the witty quip, ‘How about a nice bit of British Pork?’

  4. Paul Gatenby

    October 5, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I remember an advert in the eighties with a 50s type song that went “I like sea fish, Mama!” that finished, after seeing various punters and a cat (natch) fannying around with bits of fish, with the slogan “Fish – everyone’s favourite dish”. My Mum always said that she hated the song and thought the advert was ‘stupid’, so it put at least one family off having fish.

  5. Bob Hazard

    October 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Ah yes. The sea fish advert. I remember it very well, I used to sing it with mates in high school and at one particular girl who became a very good friend. Extremely catchy. Did its job i suppose, though it eventually became a catchphrase about a person and their rather odious personal hygiene.

  6. Dave Nightingale

    October 5, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Erstwhile “father in law of Tony Blair” Tony Booth inviting us all to join “the tea set!”

    And of course “Make room for the Mushrooms!”

  7. Roy Harrison

    November 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I too remember the Sea Fish advert and one for British Meat which ran something like “How about a nice bit of British Meat? When the weather’s like the North Pole and the wind begins to moan, a tasty, meaty casserole makes you glad to be at home!”
    Somehow this advert for me seemed to mark the end of British Summertime and counjure up the less inviting image of draughty terraced housing and power cuts rather than forming the image of my kindly Mother coming forth bearing a steaming pot containing a tasty casserole to the table as the jingle writer would no doubt have liked.
    Just as a footnote didn’t a campaign for New Zeland Lamb entitled “Mealmakers” throw it’s hat into the ring around the same time?

  8. Enoch S

    February 10, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    That “Sea Fish” song (“We love sea fish, mamma… we love the taste of fish”) was based on a Fats Waller song, and he wasn’t singing about fish but performing oral sex on his girlfriend. I wonder if the Sea Fish Industries Authority ever found out…

  9. televisualcabbage

    February 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    “Go to work on an egg… Come home in an ambulance!” Jasper Carrott circa 1990…

    Now we get Ian Botham and Alan Lamb, mucking about using every cricket term they can fit in 30 seconds… Just so we can buy some meat… I wonder why Dickie Bird wasn’t used to advertise British Chickens and Turkeys?

    Howzat? Well, with a bit of red onion, it just might do….

  10. Richard Davies

    August 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Milk had a few different campaigns over the years, I remember the 1980s Nice Cold Ice Cold Milk, stickers from which could be seen on cafe windows well into the 1990s.

    Also I remember the “drink your milk or you won’t be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley” one & the “Ain’t milk brilliant” with Paul Whitehouse’s character from The Fast Show.

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