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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

Hovis 'Boy on the Bike' crowned 'most iconic' classic ad by Brits

Set in post-war Britain and directed by Sir Ridley Scott, the ad takes the viewer up Gold Hill / Hovis

Hovis' endearing 'Boy on the Bike' ad has beaten off competition from Cadbury, Levis and Smash to be crowned the most 'iconic' UK ad of all time.

'The Bike Ride', which tells the story of a little boy pushing a bike loaded with bread up a cobbled hill, was also found to be the most likely classic ad to pull on Brits' heartstrings.

Research firm Kantar surveyed over 1000 consumers in the UK to find out what the nation deemed to be the most 'iconic' ad and the most 'heartwarming' ad of the past 60 years.

Hovis' 45-year-old film, which is scored by the emotive sound of Antonín Dvorak's New World, topped both categories. 22% said it was the most seminal ad and a further 15% said it was the commercial that made them most emotional.

Set in post-war Britain, directed by Sir Ridley Scott and created by Collett Dickenson Pearce (CDP) agency, the ad takes the viewer up Gold Hill as a bread boy struggles to get his bread-delivery bike up the steep slope on his round.

He then freewheels back down the hill to a voiceover: “like taking bread to top of the world – t’was a grand ride back though”.

The ad has even recently been aped by others, including Evan's Cycles which brought original actor Carl Barlow (now a retired firefighter) back to the small screen on an electric bike.

When it came to the most iconic ads, 11% of Brits ranked Cadbury’s 2007 Gorilla ad, which featured an anthropomorphic gorilla drumming to Phil Collins ‘In the Air Tonight’, in second place.

It was closely followed by Coca Cola's 1971 classic featuring young people singing I'd Like To Teach The World to Sing and Levi's 1985 'Laundrette' ad. The Smash Martians completed the top five.

1. Hovis: 'The Bike Ride'

2. Cadbury 'Gorilla'

3. Coca-Cola 'Hilltop'

4. Levi's 'Launderette'

5. Smash 'The Smash Martians'

In terms of the most heartwarming ads. Yellow Pages' 1983 ‘JR Hartley’ advert, which tells the story of JR Hartley and his search for a copy his book, was ranked second with 19% of the vote.

John Lewis's 2010 'Always A Woman' clocked in at number three, while 'Hilltop' from Coca-Cola took fourth place. Cadbury came in at number five in the emotional stakes.

Jeremy Gibson, marketing director at Hovis said: “We are thrilled to see our ‘Boy on the Bike’ advert voted as the most iconic and heart-warming advert. At Hovis, we are so proud of this piece of film history as it evokes the nostalgia for great bread making still prevalent within the company today, and we are delighted the nation feels the same way about it."

He added: "Audiences have placed huge pressure on the advertising world, demanding entertainment as much as information, for example through the much-anticipated and highly emotional Christmas adverts. With this in mind, it is great to see that adverts such as the ‘Boy on the Bike’ remain classics that continue, even 45 years on, to resonate with audiences today, standing the test of time.”

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