1950s Ads & Commercials

I was watching a recorded TV programme last week, fast forwarding through all the commercials. It got me thinking about how much I used to really enjoy the ads, so much so that I often turned on ITV just to watch them – many I knew by heart. OK readers no weddings but very fifties!!


So it’s a trip down memory lane readers back to the commercials of the 1950s, courtesy of Turnipnet, and some fifties ads. Of course being a child at the time I did not notice how sexist the ads were – just take a look.





See what I mean?? Now lets look at the TV ads.

The first commercial shown on TV in Britain was for Gibbs S R Toothpaste and was transmitted at 8.12 pm on Sept 22 1955 during a variety show hosted by Jack Jackson. Viewers saw a tube of toothpaste embedded in a block of ice and a woman called Meg Smith brushing her teeth in the approved manner, “up and down and round the gums”. The immaculate tones of Alex Macintosh delivered the newly-minted slogan: “It’s tingling fresh. It’s fresh as ice. It’s Gibbs SR toothpaste.”


The commercial owed its prime placing to chance. The Gibbs advertisement had come first in a lottery drawn with 23 other advertisements, including those for Guinness, Surf, National Benzole, Brown & Polson Custard and Summer County Margarine.

I can still remember the Jingle for Murray Mints, “Murray Mints, the too-good-to-hurry mints. Why make haste? When you can taste the hint of mint in Murray Mints (1955).”

The Jingle was recorded by Cliff Adams and the Stargazers who appeared on Sunday Night at the London Palladium about three months after the start of commercial television. They took a chance and ended their act on what they called their ‘latest recording’. They came on in bearskins and re-enacted the commercial on the stage. Then they pulled off the bearskins and inside them they had packets of Murray Mints which they threw to the audience. It caused a sensation, and showed the power that commercials had, even within three months.

Then there was Rice Krispies – Snap, Crackle and Pop (1955), and don’t forget the Fruit Gums Mum! (1956) .


Left - Source, Right - Source

The authorities later forced Rowntrees to change the slogan because of unfair pressure on mums. They cleverly came up with “don’t forget the fruit gums, chum” instead.

1956 saw one of my favourites, and many other childrens’, Brooke Bond PG Tips which starred the Brooke Bond chimps. The first of these adverts was set in an elegant country house and showed an immaculately dressed ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ sitting at a Regency table and drinking tea from a silver service in dainty china cups. The voiceover came from Peter Sellers.

One of the most iconic ads of the fifties was “Go to Work on an Egg!”

When the British Egg Marketing Board launched the ‘Go to Work on an Egg’ ads, no-one could have anticipated just how famous they would become. The 1950s ads starred Tony Hancock, the legendary comedian, and the ‘Go to work on an egg’ slogan is attributed to Fay Weldon, although she claims she was just the manager of the team who created the famous line. Tony Hancock is probably most famous for Hancock’s Half Hour which kicked off in November 1954, becoming a British institution for almost two decades.

Watch Hancock in action, along with Patricia Hayes and Pat Coombs – eight of the ads from the original Go to Work on an Egg campaign are available.


Also in 1956 Sooty promoted Oxo and we were told ‘Don’t say brown, say Hovis’ and ‘You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent’.

In 1957 we were told that ‘the Esso sign means happy motoring’ and that Fairy Snow gives ‘washday white without washday red’ – a dig at powders which caused skin rashes.

1958 introduced us to the long running Oxo series starring ‘Katie’ and ‘Philip’. The first ‘Katie’ was Mary Holland and the first ‘Philip’ was Richard Clarke, followed by Peter Moynihan. Everything revolved around dinner as Katie informed Philip that Oxo has nine good ingredients and ‘gives a meal man appeal’.

Left -  Source, Right - Source

Also in this year we were told by Bernard Miles that Mackeson ‘looks good, tastes good and, by golly, it does you good’. Fry’s Turkish Delight (jingle by Cliff Adams) showed a male slave unrolling a carpet containing a glamorous female captive in front of an Eastern ruler who began feeding him lumps of Turkish Delight which was said to be ‘Full of Eastern promise’.

1959 saw the soap powder war hot up as the White Tide Man faced Mrs. Bradshaw. White Tide was claimed to ‘get your clothes clean. Not only clean but deep-down clean’ while Surf featured Mrs. Bradshaw with her pile of washing who would declare ‘Hold it up to the light. Not a stain and shining bright!’.


We could be sure of Shell. Domestos was busy ‘killing all known germs in one hour’ and the question of the year was ‘Can you tell Stork from butter?’ ( I remember them all)

There were many ads for cigarettes, an example was; “You’re never alone with a Strand (1959)”.

This jingle was again written by Cliff Adams. The actor was Terence Brooks who looked like Frank Sinatra, standing on a street in London, wearing a trench coat, with a hat on the back of his head, stopping to light a cigarette. This was followed by the theme tune. As soon as the commercial went on the air, enquiries started coming in, people ringing up and asking if there was a record of the music available. So Cliff Adams quickly went to a studio and recorded “The Lonely Man Theme”.


It’s quite extraordinary how I can remember the bylines – brain washing I suppose!

Of course some of our own Fifties Wedding Icons featured in commercials and ads. Look at these with Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.





Have a good week all.

Selma xx









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