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44 years in the baking: Evans Cycles brings Hovis ad back to life with electric bike


By Naomi Taylor, Client Services Manager

September 13, 2017 | 4 min read

Evans Cycles has brought Hovis’ iconic ad ‘Boy on Bike’ back to life with the original Hovis boy on an electric bike, 44 years later. The integrated campaign was carried out by digital agency Propellernet, who was tasked with creating awareness around the positive benefits of e-bikes, while also positioning Evans Cycles as a leading authority in this growing market.

The original Hovis boy Carl Barlow, now a 58 year old retired firefighter, is seen finally conquering Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, thanks to the power of an electric bike. Ridley Scott’s 1973 production is one of Britain’s most iconic adverts and shows Barlow pushing his bike up the hill to deliver the bread to neighbours. In the 2017 re-run, an e-bike makes light of Gold Hill’s steep incline.

When asked about his experience of the campaign, Carl Barlow commented: “For me returning to Gold Hill after 44 years was kind of strange. When I arrived, there were some people taking photographs, saying to each other – ‘Oh, this is the hill from the advert with the boy pushing the bike up the hill.’ – little did they know, they were standing right next to him!”

The Return to Gold Hill

Despite the potential for e-bikes to make commuting healthier, happier and more economical, only a quarter of the commuters surveyed during research stage, were aware of what an e-bike is.

Evans Cycles ambassador, Sir Chris Hoy, said: “E-bikes are great for people to commute on over distances that they might not be able to manage without an electric motor. In short, they are a nice combination of using your own human power, your own effort and having a bit of assistance too. I think once you’ve ridden an e-bike, you completely get it.”

Joe Natale, commercial director of Evans Cycles, said: “75% of UK commuters not knowing what an e-bike is shows that its currently an unknown solution to many people’s commuting problems. Having also found that hectic, overcrowded public transport is a key frustration for at least one in five commuters, this could now be a thing of the past, and with powerful pedal assist, the worry of arriving to a meeting red-faced and sweat is eliminated.

“We hoped revisiting such a beloved advert, and helping Carl conquer the hill once and for all, will inspire more people to get on two wheels, save on their commuting costs and escape the frustrations of how they currently get to work.”

The campaign reached over 300,000 people and according to Tobias Lancaster, SEO manager at Evans Cycles, “We’ve already seen a significant, positive shift in people’s perceptions of electric bikes on our website and social channels. E-bike content that featured on our site prior to the campaign received negative comments. We’ve seen this take a complete U-turn following the Gold Hill campaign, including plenty of stories about how electric bikes have changed people’s lives.”

Return to Gold Hill

Nikki Gatenby, managing director at Propellernet, said: “We wanted to create a campaign that helped Evans Cycles to be on top of Google and front of mind when it comes to e-bikes. We’re not the first to recreate ‘Boy on Bike’, but by blending the old with the new, tapping into the nostalgia of such an iconic advert, and using online customer insights to inform content and promotional activity, we’ve won both hearts and minds for e-bikes.”

From the excellent reach results, this nostalgia clearly works.

Propellernet is a digital marketing agency based in Brighton, which has worked for clients such as Waitrose, npower and Kuoni.

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