Wednesday, 26 September 2012
He came, he saw, he conga'd...
I'm clearly something of a philistine.
I realised this this morning, when I listened to a piece of classical music on the radio - and, whilst I didn’t know its name, I did recognise it as the music from the Hamlet television commercials from the 1980s.
You don’t see a lot of cigar advertising on television anymore. This may be because people smoke less - or perhaps it says more about Gregor Fisher’s ability to dazzle an audience - but the main reason is that, in 1991, the advertising rules changed…
Alcohol was brought under much stricter control (basically, you could no longer attempt to persuade people to drink in TV ads), whilst tobacco advertising on television was banned outright.
Though at no point in my youth did I feel inclined to smoke a cheroot in a photo booth, it did occur to me this morning that – when I was in primary school, at least - the television advert most revered by myself and school friends was for a brand of lager.
George, the Hofmeister bear, was our hero.
If you don’t remember him, he was a woolly-faced brown bear with a pork-pie hat and a shiny yellow bomber jacket.
Always a bear of the people, George looked equally happy turning out some fancy flicks on the football pitch (with slip-on shoes and six inches of white towelling sock showing), as he did holed up in some boozer with the lads, tipping his hat to the fuzzy-permed ladies.
I liked George’s style – to the point where I actually bought the hat (though not the lager). I suppose, because my peer-group grew up after Happy Days first aired, George was our Fonzy. He was the very pinnacle of what we thought was cool.
Sure, we liked the Honey Monster too (a fellow woolly-faced advert personality), but he was primarily concerned with eating honeyed oats – whereas, gorgeous George was all about pub sports, chasing ladies and performing deft Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves on the bar counter in front of an adoring fan-base of spiky-haired men.
Then, of course, he’d knock back three pints of weak, faux-German lager and saunter off – causing the rabble of slack-jawed onlookers to gather behind him in a conga-line.
They were ‘following the bear’ of course. This being the tag-line of the advertising campaign…
But, in fact, in those heady pre-1991 days, it was the not-quite-adolescent men of Britain that really followed George.
At no time, before or since, would a school disco be plagued by swathes of unruly nine-year-old boys hell-bent on taking things to the next level – through the medium of conga!
But that was George’s gift. And, perhaps, that is truly the power of advertising.
(Watch George is action here.)