The top 10 greatest Australian television commercials ever

The top 10 greatest Australian television commercials ever

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The Anthill Massive (ok, four of us) were heavily engaged in a ‘strategy session’ at a local watering house a few Fridays back when Lachy, our marketing man, made the following remark: “Is it just me or is the new VB ad totally underwhelming?”

All agreed. It is.

In fact, have you come across anyone (outside of the thousands of blokes who were actually in it) who thinks that it lives up to its hype? Then again, it was always going to be a tough gig stacked up against CUB’s powerhouse predecessor: The Big Ad. (Now that was a good advertisement.)

Before the round of beers was over (or maybe it was two rounds?), I’d pulled out my notepad and we were brainstorming the Top 10 Greatest Australian Television Commercials Ever.

Here they are (according to us):

THE ORIGINAL VB AD

From the days when men were ‘real’ men: They worked hard on the land and in industry, joined the army and spent countless hours watching sport. This original VB ad from the mid ’70s may appear basic to us now, but at least they kept the message simple. They knew their market, they concentrated on the brand and they even managed to make the narrative rhyme.

BIG AD

The aforementioned Big Ad for Carlton Draft, created by George Patterson and Partners (Melbourne), first aired in August 2005. It was massive in scale, executed with precision and elegance and, most importantly, it was humorous.

Favourite part: when the beer hits the stomach and begins to riot.

SLIP SLOP SLAP

One of the most successful of all Australian health campaigns, this early ’80s ad by the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria (now Cancer Council Victoria), featuring the ever memorable mascot ‘Sid the Seagull’, recruited high-level talent – Philip Adams (broadcaster), Peter Best (composer) and Alex Stitt (designer/animator) – to produce the campaign. It was an immediate hit and its message has very much become a part of the Australian psyche.

I LIKE AEROPLANE JELLY

You might be picturing the girl on the swing singing “I like Aeroplane Jelly”, but this iconic Aussie advertising jingle began before television, screening in the cinemas in the 1940s. Sure, it’s not the most logical plot line – a small aeroplane flies into a storm, gets scared, but finds floating plates of… Aeoroplane Jelly (which he likes, by the way). But when you think of jelly, which brand comes to mind first? Case closed.

AIDS

Inspiring fear is not always an effective educational tool, but this 1987 AIDS awareness campaign, featuring the Grim Reaper bowling over families like ten pins, did more than anything else to educate Australians that AIDS was not a disease confined to sub-cultures – that it could strike down anyone who wasn’t careful.

LOUIE THE FLY

Louie the Fly, the unlikely spokesinsect of Australian household insecticide brand Mortein, buzzed straight from the rubbish tip to you in 1957. His TV career spanned 50 years, providing daily reminders for Australians (no strangers to flies) that they and their families could get sick unless they kept a can of Mortein on hand at all times.

VEGEMITE

Another iconic jingle promoting another iconic Australian product, Vegemite (when it was still an Australian-owned brand) focused on aligning its brand with happy, healthy Aussie kids (and circus acts, in this particular example).

LIFE. BE IN IT

The ‘Life. Be in it.’ organisation has been encouraging Australians to get out of the house and exercise for 30 years. For those of us who stare at a computer all day, it’s hard to watch this pre-Norm ad even now and not feel a pang of guilt about not doing more outdoorsy stuff.

ANTZ PANTZ

Holeproof, one of Australia’s leading clothing companies, shocked a few people with this mischievous ad for Ant Pantz underwear. The creative brief was to make a conservative product sexy. Enter Rex, the Echidna.

GOGGO MOBILE

Who could forget this Yellow Pages ad from 1992, featuring a burly Scotsman trying to find someone to fix his G-O-G-G-O mobile (not the Dart)? It was a big hit for Telstra’s Yellow Pages, but an even bigger hit for the Scotsman, who went on to land an advertising gig with Shannon’s Insurance (which led to a legal stoush).

I spotted this Scotsman crossing the road while I was waiting at lights in St Kilda a couple of years ago. I pointed him out to my friend sitting beside me, which the Scotsman saw and gave a big wave, which we returned. Just like the ad.

Notable Aussie ads that just missed out:

Yellow Pages – Not happy, Jan
Tooheys Extra Dry – Satisfaction
Qantas – Still call Australia home
Commonwealth Bank – Which Bank?
TAC – The pub

Reader suggestions:

First National – “Boardings” (Cindy)
The Drug Offensve – The treehouse (Julie)
Decore Shampoo – The shower song (Ed Pitts)
Nobby’s Nuts – Nibble Nobby’s Nuts (Diane Falzon)
Toyota – “Bugger” (Carolyn Deigan)
Tourism Australia – “The Wonders Down Under” – Paul Hogan (Will Turbet)
TAC – “Pictures of you” (Will Turbet)
Tourism Victoria – “Daylesford. Lead a Double Life” (Scott Seymour)
Colgate Fluorigard – Mrs Marsh’s chalk (Paul Ryan)

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  • http://www.speddoshire.com.au W Spedding

    Hello All
    Just my little bit worth – The Commonwelth Bank add of Ohh-too-long-ago.
    “Branches everywhere”
    A sterotype african explorer complete with pith helmet – fighting his way through the stylised jungle which had – you guessed it – branches everywhere.
    Regards
    Bill

    • Rick

      Yes Bill,that certainly does go back a long way,I remember it from the early 1960s.I also recall that the bank teller who delivered the “branches everywhere” punchline was played by the late Spike Milligan.

  • http://www.defuzz.com Cindy

    One of my personal favourites is a First National Real Estate ad called “Boardings”… was a finalist at the Cannes Advertising Festival not that long ago.

    Makes me laugh every time I see it!
    http://www.firstnational.com.au/content.cfm?ContentID=30833&MenuItemID=25705&subject=Advertising_Campaigns

  • Julie

    I think these are definitely the most iconic ads we have come up with, but ‘greatest’? Not so sure. I always got chills when I watched “The Drug Offensive” ad from around 1990 with the two kids in the tree-house pretending to be adults and drinking. “I’ll just knock this off”. Disturbing, yet completely understated brilliance – something lacking in a lot of Aussie ads.

    Watch it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubQtxPsF8kw

    Love the goggo mobile one though.

  • http://www.speddoshire.com.au W Spedding

    Another one – Harris Coffee and Tea – with the sailing ships and lyrics, sorry, can’t put up a link – maybe someone knows??

    • Cheryl

      in 1883 Harris clippers put to sea in search of coffee and tea, quality coffee and tea. They sailed across the ………….seas for rare ceylon and china teas, then rolled the roaring forties till they found rich coffee in brazil. Then down around the dreaded Horn where ships were lost and legends born. Laiden with precious coffee and tea they crashed their way through the angry seas. Can't remember the rest and it is bugging me !

  • http://www.maxys.com.au Scott Maxworthy

    I think it’s a bit rough throwing this out on a Wednesday afternoon when I’m about three hours away from even thinking about a beer!

  • Ed Pitts

    There were only two MUST-HAVES I could think of: Vegemite and Antz Pantz.

    I don’t remember the AIDS campaign of the late 80s, must have never seen it.

    For camp factor, surely the Decore-eh-eh ad should’ve been included?!

    • http://anthillonline.com Paul Ryan

      Could have used your ‘strategic’ input at the GB, Pitsy.

  • http://wolfiesworld_oz.blogspot.com Wolfie Rankin

    “Simon, Tahiti”

    • Rick

      Yes Wolfie,that was one that everyone used to love to hate back in the day:the overblown setting, the la-de-da accents :but I guess it probably worked.

  • Diane Falzon

    All I have to say is Nibble Nobbies Nuts!

  • http://www.prudentjuris.com.au Carolyn Deigan

    How could you possible leave the Toyota blue heeler “bugger” ad?

    • mikey

      Toyota’s “bugger” campaign – like many good bits of Aussie culture – came from NZ

    • Mick

      It was the stupidest ad I ever saw. Poor dog.

  • Will Turbet

    Two very different ads spring to mind… The world famous “shrimp on the barbie” ad is a classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2kzjxq0uuQ

    And the TAC’s Pictures of You ad is just brilliant… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eryfhMWfl1U

  • Scott Seymour

    This is easily the best TVC I have seen in a long time, ticks every box and gets it’s message across without a word of dialouge.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdmDGVoxjIE

    • Michael Harris

      Um, no. If there was a list of great failures in TV advertising to be drawn up, this would be at the top with the entire series of Commonwealth Bank ads from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

      These Vic tourism ads don’t tell me anything whatsoever about the place. It’s a 30sec excuse for a lot of visuals with terrible religious overtones and nothing of substance.

    • blech

      I detest this campaign, absolutely ridiculous and has ensured we never visit Daylseford, ever. Crazy bipolar girls gone wild? Keep it.

  • Grant Smith

    How is it possible that we can find archive Vegemite ads on YouTube, and yet that icon of the Australian vernacular, “that’ll be the phone Reg”, seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth?

  • http://anthillonline.com Paul Ryan

    How could we have forgotten Mrs Marsh and her chalk in the Colgate Fluorigard ad?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZxORpKb8Vw

    • http://YourWebsite Barry Jorgensen

      Easy i tried real hard to forget that one

    • Rick

      Yes Paul,still memorable after all these years: Mrs Marsh,wearing a trenchcoat and dipping a stick of white chalk into a glass of purple-coloured water,and the man of the house protesting:”But teeth are harder than chalk!”

  • http://www.twitter.com/swandives Georgina Swan

    Loved all these, and the suggestions. I’m also quite partial to the Yellow Pages ad – “Not Happy Jan”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2akt3P8ltLM

    • Steve B

      Yes this is the one I thought was missing from the list – you know an ad is effective when a tagline finds its way into the vernacular 

  • http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,,25999537-662,00.html James Tuckerman

    This post was today featured in the Herald Sun…

    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,,25999537-662,00.html

    Now that we’re moving away from our print origins, guess the mainstream print media is not as coy about featuring our activities.

    Yet, the article describes Anthill as a ‘marketing website’. Weird.

  • Strephyn

    “Dad, why did they build the great wall of China?”
    Been voted Australia’s best ad for 3 years straight in public polls….how could you forget to include it?

    • http://www.anthillonline.com James Tuckerman

      “To keep out the rabbits.” Absolute gold. Definitely negligent on our behalf. :-)

    • Jen

      Ugh. Most annoying ad ever. I still don’t get how it was funny.

  • Lisa Formby

    Yes! I was just about to write in with the same comment – a classic for sure.

  • John Power

    “…it’s your money Ralph”

  • http://www.shirebusiness.com.au Glenn Holdstock

    Best ads ever ?
    and no cigarette ads. I’m just old enough to remember them, and if the “best ads ever” are those that sold product, then surely that powerful genre of ads that seeded the deadly product into the minds of adults and children alike, seemingly for their entire life, must surely get a run somewhere in the best ads ever …. or are we being value laden and all PC here ?

    And that screeching “where do you get it?” (J singleton I think ?) just cut into the mind like a hot knife through butter.

    “Anyhow …..” that’s my modest contribution

    • Dickhead

      The best things about the best Aussie ads, and Aussie film humour in general, was no trace of pommie whatsoever.

  • Rebecca

    What about the SOLO ad with the man going down the cliff in a canoe?

    • Scotty

      There were several “Solo Men”, in 1992 it was Steve Irwin. But it’s the only variation of that campaign I can’t find :(

  • http://www.wealthesteem.org Paul Zagoridis

    Lots of memorable ads there. Very clever of Anthill to bait us with “Top 10 Greatest” so we discuss it. Well done.

    The hard trick is how to define “great”. Glenn Holdstock pointed out many missing categories.

    So shouldn’t great cover memorable, innovative and successful in a sales/branding sense?

    While I enjoy the big beer ad, I couldn’t remember whose ad it was until I started discussing it. I’ve also heard it did NOT sell any more bloooooooody beer. But it did reach more than 1 million views within two weeks of viral launch.

    I hope it did sell some beer but I can’t find any data right now.

  • Richard

    I always loved that insurance ad with the cockatoo and the cat. “Who stole the telly, who stole the telly”.

  • Stephen

    Carlton Natural Blonde

    This is a fairly recent broadcast but those two Carlton Natural Blonde ads with that futuristic spaced out 80’s kitch set-up, i.e. “What’s that taste in my mouth?”.

    I can’t help laughing my head off at how corny it is!

  • Rocco
    • Rick

      Hey Rocco,would they include the ad where a family knock on the door of a lighthouse on a wild stormy night and invite themselves to dinner;I'm pretty sure that was for Rosella soup,though I think that it aired more like 30 years ago than 20.

  • Sidney O’Brien

    You seem to be only iterested in so called humorous ads but I would like to concentrate on an ad that offends my world of reality and that is forensics I have recently watched a so called humorous ad on Oz TV that shows a man that in all reality should be dead so where is the humour of seeing a man that should be dead then talking to their next door neighbour, and may also ask why aussies can no longer spell in good old oxford English?

    • Jules

      Well, I’m asking why you can no longer construct good old proper sentences…

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  • ED MORRIS

    CAN'T BELIEVE THE OLD WINFIELD CIGARETTE COMMERCIALS WITH PAUL HOGAN DIDNT RATE A MENTION!!!

  • Fitworks

    I notice that you have NOT included Mr Sheen ads… maybe because he now been promoted to Prime minister?

  • A.M.A

    what about that ranga on your banger ad. thought it was bloody hilarious!

  • TONKA

    were is champbell’s fully loaded man!?

    • Rick

      I guess he’s just another version of the Marlboro man,the Solo man;i.e. eat this stuff and you too can be a tough guy.

  • ruaidrhi

    TAC – “Pictures of you” is my new top emotive ad.

  • ruaidrhi

    TAC – “Pictures of you” is my new top emotive ad.

  • Andy Wilmot

    Shouting with repeatitive throbing music ad’s are made to be sound muted , fast fowarded and ……… forgoten . Let’s bring back imagination and creativity to advirtising .

  • Lisapenguin

    I was always a big fan of the Mutual Community/ HBA ad-

    ” Bit me into parts..pieces, and my legs went that way, and my head went that way!”

    Surely that would have to be up there?

  • Sydney PK

    What about “Rabbits in China”?

  • Uncle_jim44

    Does anyone remember the “3 cappacionos thanks” ad? It was from the spastic society. Probably considered highly politically incorrect nowadays but just showed people’s attitudes towards the mentally challenged back in the 80’s. If anyone knows where I can get a copy of it, let me know or post a link on here. Thanks.

    • Wanterman

      DUUUUDE.. I have been looking for this ad for years.. This is my “White Whale”. If you can find it pleaase youtube it for me!!!

      • NEED_80s_SPASTIC_AD

        Has anybody been able to find this Spastic Society ad on tape? I’ve scoured many long strings of “best of 80’s aussie ads” and haven’t come accross it.. If I could see it once more I would be a happy man..

        • Evilvenom77

          I too have been looking for this ad everywhere!!!!!!!! it has to be somewhere!!!!!! I was even starting to think I imagined seeing it as everyone I know cant remember it!!!!!I am so glad I was not…..

          • Andrewho73

            Also need to find this ad after searching high & low. From memory it was… ‘4 cappuccinos pleeeeese?’… ‘sorry the machine’s on the blink’… ‘…and a pie with sauuuce?’… ‘ look we don’t serve retards in here’… ‘here some money?’ Its all pretty vague 26 years later but I seem to remember as the 4 sad down syndromers exit shop the milk bar owner is smirking behind the glass.- cut to equal opportunities message. probably won’t be as funny now but it created a lot of humour in my high school class & coffee shops back in 1985.

          • Gregory1958

            Hi, Yes the Ad really did air but only for a brief time.If I remember correctly some of the participants in the commercial suffered from Down syndrome. I believe it was the girl  who asked for service.A really poignant Ad.

    • Tardo

      PLEASE FIND THIS AD!!!

      • Grame

        This ad was for the Spastic Society to bring awareness to the Spastics. There were 3 of them walk into a cafe and they ask for 3 Cuppacinos and a Sasuage roll with sauce. The person in the shop says “We don’t serve your kind”. The guy then goes “I’ve got the right money”. It’s so vivid but I haven’t seen this since the 80’s.. Can somebody please find it and youtube it.

  • ShawnB

    2010 The ING Direct ad with the monkey – This is pure genius. All that ING has to do is to keep making more & more ads with the monkey for at least two or three years & ING will be in the memory of every Aussie.

    • Gaynor

      Who played the role of the monkey? I knoe that I knoe those eyes and they are someone famous. Can you help me?

  • Yanny_65

    I’m trying to find a bread ad from the late 80’s, there are grains singing I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam.
    If anyone can remember the ad and has a clip of it, I would love a copy.
    Thanks.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com James Tuckerman – Anthill Mag

      I think it was an ad for peanut butter?

      • Yanny_65

        It was an ad for sunbeam bread, it is rated 78 in the top 100 ads in Australia, but I can’t find a video clip of it anywhere :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Irish-Lyka-Donato/100000683785241 Irish Lyka Donato

      Um…. How does it sound??

  • Katie

    Barbara from Bank World

  • Ronnie1981

    Does anyone remeber the Underwater World Commercial where they did the voice over of the fish. Key one Being “Faster Sharky Faster”?

    I love this advert but noone remembers it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Irish-Lyka-Donato/100000683785241 Irish Lyka Donato

    Um… I would like to ask what’s the add that sings like “Summer days are driffting away shoo baba” and “oooooh oooooh all star is there anybody out there?”

    • Jess

      Le tan

  • Dickhead

    BIG ad CUB is, an epic shite. Not funny. If you think it’s funny you are a, non-funny person who thinks he’s funny. PTOOIE.

  • Greg Gordon

    Hey, Am I the only person to remember possibly one of the titilating (for men) commercials from the 1970’s. Also a great song to go along with this commercial.What is it you ask,its the 4711 Ice Cologne Ad. featuring Daryl Brathwaite singing the song. Find that one if you can I’ve being trying for 13 years. Remember the girl. Say no more.

    • Ricker848

      Yes Greg,I remember that one,it was around in 1972.

      • Gregory1958

        Good to see that I’m not the only one to remember those two ! (say no more).
        If you ever have any leads on how to find that commercial please leave some onfo here.

  • Jonny

    The RSPCA ad is a bewdy!

  • Richard W

    Surely Jack Thompson in the Claytons ad (The drink you have when you are not having a drink) has to be in there. Claytons is such a part of the vernacular now, though not sure if it did much for the product. 

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  • Gregory1958

    Someone out there know where you can view the WWF (world wild life fund) commercial using the song  ‘I’ll Stand by You ‘ I’ve looked at their web site but cannot seem to locate it. Really moving saga about the mistreatment of animals. 

    • Markwinkle2003

      That was actually a PETA ad which you can find on You Tube   -“I’ll Stand By You”

    • Everything4eyes

      I believe it was for Humane Society International, however unable to find the older advert. They may have stopped playing it because it showed a turtle being cut open. But it was a touching advert, made you feel the pain the animals go through

    • Phoenix

      I’ve been looking for this ad for a while too and I think I found it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB9XrF6AwHM   I only ever saw it on tv the once but it made an impression.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Maree-Daniels/100000598340441 Anne-Maree Daniels

    i remember eveyone quoting the mercantile credit add with the rabbit family driving, “where did ya get it? mercantile credit”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Maree-Daniels/100000598340441 Anne-Maree Daniels

    what was the add, it was a song, parts of it were, lets go climb a mountain cause thats what mountains are for. have a go, we can do it…. have a go… well come through it. thats how the nation was started ……… n ………. n………… hearted?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LXHC3NRS27M6NVWKZEDAKJOB6Y JazzB

      Have A Go Australia, a community service announcement created by Mojo.

  • Skip

    Does anyone know where I can view the Claytons ‘the drink I have when I’m not having a drink’ commercial?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Timothy-Anderson/100000529084419 Timothy Anderson

    Hi …I’m trying to find one of the ampol ads from the early 90’s
    My partener had 3 seconds of fame on one of them …trying to find ….

  • http://www.outdoorstringlightsexclusive.com/outdoor-string-lights/outdoor-string-lights-commercial/ outdoor string lights commerci

    This is
    the great blog, I’m reading them for a while, thanks for the new posts!

  • Sandra

    What about the ad where the guy is at some sort of tribal feast and is eating something but doesn’t know what it is.  Then the tribes woman starts to draw a picture of a sheep and the guy says “oh laaamb” before she finishes the picture, and she continues to draw a arrow to the sheeps testicles whilst nodding and repeating after the guy “laaamb”.  I’ve been trying to find this ad for ages and i don’t even remember what it was advertising… maybe an antacid or something.  If someone knows what it was and has a link to it on you tube then please let me know. Everytime i eat lamb i think of this ad…

  • aussie dragonfly

    Does anyone remember the Australian ad in the 70’s &/or early 80’s where there are cartoon characters singing the song “I wanna come on Aussie, I wanna have a go….” Unfortunately thats all I can remember

  • Bluesunday

    ive been trying to find the one with the spider with sexy voice that just wont die after being hit with a shoe – any ideas?

  • Dani

    I think these are okay. My favourite is the laughing women advertising, no dialogue. TENA incontenience diapers. Hilarious. Clever.

  • Zack

    For many, many years I have been trying to find an ad.
    At night, a cat is sleeping next to a heater, but then jumps out the window. A few seconds later, the doorbell rings. A person (I don’t think we actually see their face) goes to answer the door. The cat is there and speaks the line “who closed the window hmm?”
    I think this ad aired around 1990 or 1991. I think it was for a gas or energy company (maybe Integral?) and know that it aired in NSW.
    I was a very young kid when I last saw this ad, but it has stayed with me for almost my entire life. If anyone sees this ad please let me know!

  • Zack

    I am searching for the old Centrepoint Tower (Sydney) ad. It had a jingle with something about Centrepoint Tower being “the tower of feeling”.
    There are a few Centrepoint ads on YouTube, but not this one.
    Any help in finding this particular ad is also appreciated. Thanks.

  • Marion Gordon

    There are a few ads that have stuck in my mind since (I think) the 1970s:
    1. Couple in a car, she starts the convo “I’m your wife. Somebody will tell you if I don’t.” He says “I use a deodorant.” Then sarcastically “Sorry if I offend.” She says “you need more – you need Palmolive Gold.” Cut scene to him in shower, then they’re back in the car. She says “are we friends?” and he replies “lovers”. Nothing spectacular about it, but I can still hear their voices.

    2. KFC animated ad set to music. The only bit I can remember is “then Hugo said you go, and then we were back …” or something like that, but it was really catchy.

    3. Red Robin mighty tuff sox (don’t blame me, that’s how the words were spelled in the ad, as far as I remember). It was almost like a precursor to rap, “red robin, red robin, mighty tuff sox … fire [something], fire engine, fire crackers bang”. Again, very catchy.

    And although some other ads have fallen by the wayside, their phrases go on. As mentioned in an earlier post, a Clayton is still heard quite a bit. Also “life is full of Vesta situations”. And “just passing, thought I’d drop in”.

  • frouste

    Back in the early 70s or late 60s, there was a great Ad for Shell petrol, with a beautiful song. They used a fully restored MG TC I believe, and the opening words were: “Sunday morning and boy what a day ahead, Shell petrol and places to go….” The photography was excellent, and the Ad very romantic. Later on I bought a 1950 MG TD!

  • http://www.dallton.com snake_gtr
  • Clinton Dee

    Ahhh you left out the lamb ad, “Ballarat Actually”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFCj2eWCGw8