Top ten Welsh ads of all time.
Kicking us off, it’s a Welsh 6 Nations Rugby ad, notable for the fact it was deemed too controversial to be aired. The insight might have been brutally true. But maybe some truths are more delicious when left unspoken. Should it have run? I’ll let you decide…
At number nine, it’s Welsh brewer ‘Brains’, who earned huge affection from fans during their 6-year sponsorship of the Welsh national rugby team. Most notably, for outwitting France’s strict ban on alcohol sponsorships. In 2005, they memorably snuck past the French authorities by swapping the normal ‘Brains’ logo on the red jerseys, for the word ‘Brawn’. Brains ended up with twice the publicity they’d have had with their normal logo, proving the old adage that a well defined problem can often become a nice opportunity.
At number eight it’s that famously Welsh brand: Guinness. Or rather, it’s Guinness coming over all Welsh with a poignant film about rugby player Gareth Thomas’ decision to come out as the first openly gay rugby star. His story is beautifully told, and beautifully shot. And the no nonsense acceptance of the Welsh rugby fans ends up saying something rather profound about the country, as well as the man. It’s not often that an advert makes a nation reflect on itself, but this one does.
At number seven it’s another rugby themed entry — this time a Six Nations promo from BBC Wales. Despite Welsh fans’ global fame for their passionate singing, it turned out that half the country didn’t really know the words to Wales’ (supposedly) most famous fan songs. BBC Wales had a lot of fun with this in 2014, revealing the nation’s shame, and generally training-up Welsh fans to stop mumbling and start sing properly at Six Nations games. The self-deprecating Welsh sense of humour was a refreshing antidote to all the puffery of these big sporting events. And little did they know back then how handy the singing practice would come in at Euro 2016…
In a dangerous swerve at number six, it’s the road safety ad to end all road safety ads. A partnership between Tredegar Comprehensive School and Gwent Police, and costing just a few thousand pounds to produce, ‘Cow’ is a half hour online drama about the perils of texting while driving. (Yes — I did say half an hour; in this day and age, who’d have thought!). With over 3 million YouTube views, and picked up by countries around the word, it’s proof that scaring the shit out of teenagers with PSA films still has a role in the modern world.
Need cheering up after that? Then, for the pure joy of the Welsh accent alone, sit back and enjoy this Fairy Liquid ad from 2010 (which somehow manages to look like it’s from 1970)….
At number four, further proof that the only thing better than a Welsh accent is an excited child with a Welsh accent. This BBC Wales Six Nations campaign from 2013 followed Wales’ progress through the tournament through the eyes of a young boy. It’s beautifully observed (the Dad, explaining that Wales haven’t always been this good at rugby, and might turn out to be a bit rubbish, is priceless). But what was smart about it was how they recorded the campaign in real-time response to match results. So we get to see little Scott’s rising and falling emotions as each new game approaches. “We won! Brrrrrilliant! Come on Waaaaales!”
At number three it’s not an ad but a whole Welsh brand: The Hiut Denim Company. Cardigan is a small Welsh town of 4,000 people. And 400 of them used to make jeans. But when the factory left town, it looked like 30 years of craftsmanship would be lost.
Until along came David Hieatt, a former Saatchi advertising copywriter, and his wife, Clare. They set up high-end jeans brand Hiut, with the determination to bring jeans making back to Cardigan again.
With its mantra of ‘doing one thing well’; quirky ideas like the Denim Breaker Club, (where you can get paid for wearing, and not washing, a pair of jeans for 6 months, to break them in before they’re sold on to someone else); not to mention its beautifully curated online content and gorgeous printed yearbooks — this is one Welsh brand that truly has “hwyl” in its blood. (That’s a good thing, by the way.)
At number 2, just missing out on the top spot, it’s this Lidl billboard, placed in Swansea ahead of Euro 2016.
You may be thinking, ‘that’s no great shakes’. (Or maybe you’re stuck on why the word ‘cyd’ has no vowels, but forget that for a minute…). It might indeed have been no big deal, had it not been for the sheer fuckwittery of so many other Euro 2016 brand tie-ups in terms of managing to alienate the entire population of Wales. Because — ooh, what’s this? It’s Mars spending squillions on ads and in store merch rallying the good people of Wales to “believe” in England at the Euros.
Apparently Mars are the sponsors of the English Football Association, and this explains the whole “Come on England” thing. But really. Did nobody stop to think how this would play out in Wales?
Or maybe there was some weird collective marketing industry brainfog going on. Because, what’s this? It’s M&S promoting team England suits in their flagship store in Cardiff, (without so much as a nod to Wales).
And not to be left out — here’s good old JD Sports with wall-to-wall England team kit posters outside their Cardiff store.
And so — by virtue of other brands’ sheer crass stupidity — that Lidl billboard suddenly looks the very epitome of a brand that gets and respects its local customers. Da iawn Lidl.
And so we come to the number one in Leith’s round-up of Welsh ads. And there could only be one winner.
It’s that famously Welsh brand: Pot Noodle.
For yes — as their website says “Despite the rumours, Pot Noodle is not made in heaven, but somewhere pretty similar — Crumlin, South Wales. We’ve called it our home since 1979.”
In 1996 Pot Noodle ran an ad featuring former Crumlin miners. The ad generated 81 complaints accusing it of racism. Fortunately the ASA rejected the claims. And quite right — because the ad is a thing of pure joy
Have we missed any gems? Please let us know…