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Commercial Break: British Advertising on Screen

Few films capture our hopes, fears and desires in such a compact expressive form as the screen advertisement. 

A part of the film story from its earliest days, advertising grew up with the cinema, going on to transform television and colonising the online world with seductive viral videos. Look out for famous faces both before and after they had their big break, and the illustrious names of those behind the camera who, like Ridley Scott and Alan Parker, took their talents into mainstream cinema.

Here are snapshots of what we ate, how we travelled, and the lives we aspired to. But remember: other lifestyles are available.

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Heinz Baked Beans : Common Market
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Heinz Baked Beans : Common Market

Advert19721 mins

In 1972 Britain entered the European common market full of beans. What could go wrong?

Hovis: Boy on the Bike
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Hovis: Boy on the Bike

Advert19741 mins Location: Shaftesbury

A classic slice of British advertising history, though that hill's not as Northern as it looks...

Guinness - Plinths
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Guinness - Plinths

Advert19761 mins

Pete and Dud prove to be stout football fans in this Guinness commercial recalling a great sporting moment - however fleeting.

Rudge-Whitworth - Britain's Best Bicycle
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Rudge-Whitworth - Britain's Best Bicycle

Advert19021 minsSilent

A gentleman cyclist learns the error of his ways in one of the earliest surviving British film advertisements.

Little Miss Muddlehead (Rinso Advert)
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Little Miss Muddlehead (Rinso Advert)

Advert19432 mins

Use Rinso and help defeat Hitler! The soap brand deploys some savvy wartime advertising.

Coca-Cola: Mary Hopkin
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Coca-Cola: Mary Hopkin

Advert19691 mins

Mary Hopkin takes a stroll along the beach in this melancholy Coke ad.

Target - Geoff Hurst
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Target - Geoff Hurst

Advert19681 mins

England's 1966 hat-trick hero doesn't sweat the small stuff - or at all, according to this deodorant commercial.

Co-operette
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Co-operette

Advert193815 mins

See silly slapstick, music, mayhem and a daffy dance-off between a carrot and an onion in this lively colour film advertising Co-op stores.

Daz with the Blue Whitener
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Daz with the Blue Whitener

Advert19672 mins Location: Devon

Mrs Cross takes the Daz test but what will the outcome be?

What We Want Is Watney's
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What We Want Is Watney's

Advert19591 mins

A young Michael Caine bursts on to the scene as a cheeky soldier in this delightful advert for Watney's beer.

Cadbury's Chocolate The Factory in a Garden
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Cadbury's Chocolate The Factory in a Garden

Advert19313 minsSilent

A mouth-watering glimpse of the art and craft that went into making and decorating Cadbury’s chocolates in the 1930s.

Sam Goes Shopping
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Sam Goes Shopping

Advert19396 mins

Stanley Holloway recounts the exploits of Sam Small, whose wife sends him shopping for... what was it again?

Findus - Pancakes: Pancake Day (Revised Version)
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Findus - Pancakes: Pancake Day (Revised Version)

Advert19811 mins

The iconic Findus frozen food, a crispy pancake wrapped around a choice of four different fillings.

Fun at Rhyl
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Fun at Rhyl

Advert19620 mins Location: Rhyl

Cinema advertisement for Marine Lake & Ocean Beach, Rhyl, a popular destination for crowds set on a day's fun on free rides.

Branston Pickle: Advertising Agency
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Branston Pickle: Advertising Agency

Advert19570 mins

15 seconds isn't long, you've got to say Crosse and you've got to say Blackwell, and you've got to say Branston Pickle!

Alcan Foil 'fat Chef'
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Alcan Foil 'fat Chef'

Advert19711 minsSilent

A witty ad for foil and clingfilm products, directed by none other than Lindsay Anderson.

Vistafjord Exclusive Cruises
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Vistafjord Exclusive Cruises

Advert197521 mins Location: Southampton

Enjoy this kaleidoscope of images taken aboard the MS Vistafjord - for an exclusive holiday cruise setting sail from Southampton

Butlin's Has Something for Everyone
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Butlin's Has Something for Everyone

Advert19651 mins

Family fun at Butlin’s with nothing extra to pay.

Buzby - Gossip
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Buzby - Gossip

Advert19791 mins

Buzby’s mum gossips with her neighbours over a garden fence in this cartoon ad for BT.

Babycham: Clovelly
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Babycham: Clovelly

Advert19731 minsSilent Location: Clovelly

A couple walk in the pouring rain through Clovelly, North Devon, their journey and feelings narrated in song.

Going Shopping with Elizabeth Allan
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Going Shopping with Elizabeth Allan

Advert19558 minsSilent Location: South Kensington

Everyday essentials like brandy, teabags and Tupperware are all on offer at London's most famous store.

Rowntrees Smarties: The Smarties Place
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Rowntrees Smarties: The Smarties Place

Advert19821 mins Location: York

A child’s fantasy of being in a place where Smarties are overflowing, and there are no adults around to spoil the fun.

Close-ups of the Stars
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Close-ups of the Stars

Advert19466 mins

A triple bill of glamour courtesy of Lux toilet soap.

Lyons Maid Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb
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Lyons Maid Lolly Gobble Choc Bomb

Advert19740 mins

Animated advert for the much loved strawberry ice lolly, with chocolate and sugar balls and a chocolate bar inside!

Son of Plain - Advertising Man's Guide to Tyne Tees Television
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Son of Plain - Advertising Man's Guide to Tyne Tees Television

Promotional196411 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Is comedian Clive Dunn the Don Draper of the British advertising world? Watch this imaginative Tyne Tees TV marketing film and decide.

Castleford Advert 3
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Castleford Advert 3

19390 minsSilent Location: Castleford

No attempt to sell an idyllic lifestyle here in these two cinema ads for local shops, just a simple warning on the irreplaceability of eyesight.

Ovaltine - Train
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Ovaltine - Train

Advert19851 mins

Ovaltina will pick you up! With an electronic 80s synth and a catchy theme tune, Ovaltina parachutes in to save the day

Explore further

The Art of Advertising
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The Art of Advertising

There's an art to selling, as any ad man or woman will tell you. And Britain's screen advertising has been among the most artistically ambitious of all. 

Tastes Great!
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Tastes Great!

A smorgasbord of culinary delights and thirst-quenching refreshment awaits in this collection of food and drink adverts.

Celebrity Sells
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Celebrity Sells

A celebrity endorsement is one of the advertisers' most powerful weapons. 

The Open Road
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The Open Road

Whether you're going by road, rail, air or sea, this collection of screen ads doesn’t just get you from A to B, it offers a road map to an A-Z of desirable destinations.

Near Your Local Cinema
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Near Your Local Cinema

Local goods for local people! Screen advertising wasn’t all national brands and chain stores.

What Women Want?
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What Women Want?

Caring mums, hard-working housewives or independent, fun-loving 'new women' - the female consumer has long been a target of screen advertising.