Um Bongo versus Kia Ora

Um Bongo and Kia Ora. I loved both of these brightly-coloured drinks when I was a nipper – probably packed for e-number to keep toddlers bouncing off walls for hours – and remember the accompanying adverts with great fondness.

Looking at them these days induces a bit of a cringe, however, They’re frankly packed with all sorts of dubious racial stereotypes: add in a cowardly Jewish vulture who’s always trying to steal the carton-ed drinks and you’d be laughing (or not, as the case may be). Kia ora is actually a Maori greeting, which roots it further in some foreign = exotic idiom.

However, I’m not going to attempt some retcon of our racial attitudes from way-back-when. By our standards, these ads might make us a little uncomfortable, but they’re clearly not malicious. Chalk that one down to things-that-used-to-be-a-bit-dodgy then.

kia ora advert

Now that we’ve got that unpleasantness out of the way, let’s have a look at them. Ads like this are, natch, aided by a hefty nostalgia whack, so we’re naturally inclined to look on them favourably. While that does invite the horrifying thought that tomorrow’s thirtysomethings will go all misty-eyed at the sight of Cara Confused or Gio Compario, it’s a fairly undeniable mechanism in stuff like this.

No doubt if Russell Howard was a bit younger he’d walk on stage to one of these songs – the fucking twat – and you can bet your bottom dollar some dopey radio DJs with overly shiny teeth, a fondness for 16-year-old girls and a raging coke habit plays them ironically during their drivetime slots.

The best example of these songs’ wider exposure is in Spaced, where Simon Pegg has an awkward chat at the urinal with a young urchin who doesn’t know what he’s one about when he quotes the ‘just for me and my dog’ line – and follows it up with a squawked ‘it’s too orangey for crows’. Which rather encapsulates the whole childhood nostalgia thing perfectly. If you remember it from your youth, you probably love it. If you don’t you’re probably baffled by it.

They’ve both held up pretty well, aesthetically speaking. It’s all a bit Cosgrove Hall – fast, knockabout and charming – and the ability to craft memorable songs in adverts that don’t drive you to a terrible howling rage is evident here.

From the languid dancehall of the Kia Ora ad to the tribal rhythms of Um Bongo, this was probably the first black music most people in Cheshire ever heard.

I don’t remember which drink I liked best, perhaps Um Bongo. But which ad is best? I can’t decide – it would be like picking one of my kids over the other. If either of them are still going, I’m open to free samples.

Heroes of Adturds: Cadbury’s

A sad day, no doubt for British industry. Cadbury’s is off to get decimated and absorbed by Kraft; who will rationalise the Cadbury’s bunny, downsize the British Curly Wurley and smash the face of the Phil Collins Gorilla in.

While few are likely to be aware of the economic and social history of the company, most will make an emotional connection with company through its advertising and products. It’s often difficult to separate the two.

And while I’ve compiled a list of some of those most famous adverts below, I’ve included a paragraph by a friend on the passing of the company as we know it.

And that’s it. The last of the great philanthropic British companies – such as Rowntree’s, Terry’s, Dorman Long, Lever Brothers and the Great Western Railway – which helped to ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism in this country and raised the living standards of the working and lower middle classes, has gone.

This is a genuinely sad day, and not just for those who like chocolate which tastes like chocolate.

So, there you go. Another British institution off to the great chocolate factory in the sky, not via a glass elevator but the rough and tumble of globalised industrial markets.

At least we’ll always have that fit bird in the Flake ad.

Cadbury’s flake advert

Sex and chocolate – a firmly established routine in adland. This is, perhaps, the finest example

Cadbury’s Curly Wurly advert
Terry Scott doing what he did best – and only 3p

Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut advert
Actually comes over as rather wrong in quite a lot of way now, but seemed cute at the time.

Cadbury’s Crunchie advert
Still turns up from time to time on telly, and the slogan still in everyday parlance.
A testament to the power of a good ad.
Cadbury’s Roses advert
Cockneys singing and Big Daddy. Crude but memorable.

Cadbury’s Caramel advert
I fancied the sexy bunny in this as much as I liked eating Caramel.

Cadbury’s Wispa advert

Featuring the wonderful Ruth Madoc and Simon Cadell.

Cadbury’s Milk Tray advert
Much parodied and undeniably silly, almost certainly responsible for lots of apologetic
boxes of chocolates laid on kitchen tables by guilty husbands.

Smash robots
One of the great classics of advertising.

Cadbury’s Fudge advert

Inspiring rude take-offs in playgrounds since the 80s