Benson & Hedges, 1978

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Benson & Hedges
As a red and blue, lycra-clad Wonder Woman kerpowed onto our screens, another wonder woman of sorts was making an impact. Margaret Thatcher, leader of the opposition party, had engaged Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency to help win the General Election.

Although the election didn’t take place until the following year, 1978 saw a raft of political advertising including the memorable poster campaign, “Labour isn’t working”. The ad had a huge impact, largely because it was denounced by Labour’s Denis Healey in Parliament.

He said the Conservatives had reached a new low by “selling politics like soap powder.” Since then, the strategy of using a deliberately controversial poster on a few billboards and reaping millions of pounds of free publicity has become a standard tactic for advertisers.

A striking series of photomontages and cinema films for B&H Gold, by Collett Dickenson Pearce at the peak of its success, featured the gold pack of cigarettes in various surreal juxtapositions and transformations, devoid of words and people. The ads became a talking point among consumers, with everyone wondering what the next would look like.

1978 was also the year of electronic games. The Atari 2600 with its woodgrain console and stubby rubber joysticks became a living room fixture in many middle class homes, featuring games like Tennis and Space War. Then there was Simon, a plastic circle with four coloured quarters that flashed and beeped. The aim of the game was to match the sequence. When kids weren’t playing with their new electronic toys, they were watching a new school TV drama called Grange Hill.

Meanwhile, actor Leonard Rossiter, as Nebbish, a bumbling suitor, just couldn’t help spilling his drinks over Melissa (Joan Collins) in a series of endearing Cinzano ads. Across the Atlantic, two men called Ben and Jerry opened an ice cream parlour in a renovated petrol station in Vermont.

Snapshot 1978
Brand Value – Methodology
Books: John Irving published The World According to Garp; Plenty by David Hare
Events: First test tube baby born; Polish bishop; the first non-Italian for 400 years, becomes Pope; Spain set to vote for democracy
Films: Grease; Superman
Music: The Boomtown Rats knocked Grease’s Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta off the top spot.