World’s best ads ever #44: Ridley Scott evokes forgotten rural England for Hovis
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
With its thatched roofs, steep cobbled streets and views of the green Dorset hills, the village of Gold Hill is the kind of evocative locale that filmmakers love to use. The timeless 1967 version of Far From the Madding Crowd was shot there – and what’s good enough for Terrance Stamp and Julie Christie is good enough for Ridley Scott.
In 1973 – before Alien, Blade Runner and all that – Scott directed ‘Boy on the Bike’ for baker Hovis, a floury ode to a lost England and its wheatgerm charms.
Filmed in soft lighting and set to Antonín Dvorák’s Symphony No 9 From the New World, mournfully played by a colliery band, Gold Hill is used as a stand in for the north (Hovis was founded in Cheshire) and for the working-class, rural England.
The premise links Hovis – by then a major baking company as modern and scientific as any other industrial concern – with a simple past of flour and rolling pins, rather than industrialized breadmaking.
While the spot reminds viewers of the staunch qualities of its bread, implying it’ll help you get through another working day, the crew themselves had to sweat a fair amount over the film – actor Carl Barlow recalled cycling up and down Gold Hill’s main street “30 or 40 times“ and that “going down was more fun that pushing the bike up”.
The ad worked a charm, becoming a cultural touchstone of the 70s – the Two Ronnies even recreated it, in the same location, for a 1978 sketch – and cementing its place as one of the British public’s best loved ads of all time. Scott’s explanation for the spot’s success was as simple as its script: “Combine the appropriate music with the appropriate picture and you’ve got lift-off.”