World’s best ads ever #89: Penelope Keith lends her distinct brand of Britishness to Parker Lady
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.
This advert aired in the UK in the late 1970s, just as Penelope Keith – playing the school mistress – was becoming a household name thanks to her now unforgettable role as the ever-so-posh Margo Leadbetter in hit sitcom The Good Life.
Ad agency Collett Dickenson Pearce – the now defunct shop that at one point housed creatives including Frank Lowe, David Puttnam, Alan Parker, John Hegarty and Charles Saatchi – created the ad.
What makes it so iconic is the fact that no one was ever quite sure just how tongue-in-cheek it was meant to be.
Parker wasn’t the common man’s brand. When it launched the Parker Lady in 1975 as a smaller and more elegant model aimed at women, its target audience would likely have been the finishing-school girls it so aptly depicts. The £9.95 price tag from 1975 would equate to roughly £88 today – no small price for a biro.
Like Margo, Keith’s character in ‘A Parker Lady’ is ostensibly classist. She tells her group of prim school girls on their final day that the only lesson they need remember is “how to spend Daddy’s lovely money”.
With no soundtrack, the script for this ad really shines.
“No, no, no Felicity, you must never go shopping in Knightsbridge with one of those,” Keith says, reprimanding one student for writing a check with her presumably non-Parker pen.
Extolling the benefits of the Parker Lady, she exclaims in perfect Queen’s English: “Noughts just seem to roll from its tip.”
As another student asks how one might spell ‘pence’, the spot ends with a line delivered in a way only Keith could: “I don’t think you need worry about that, my dear.”