World’s best ads ever #90: Tango’s ‘Orangeman’ births happy-slapping and the careers of two creatives
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.
‘Make Tango Famous’: that was the task given to Trevor Robinson and his creative partner Al Young by the brand’s parent company Britvic back in 1991.
Robinson has said it was the dream brief for the duo, who were fledgling creatives at advertising agency Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury and Partners.
Though they of course wanted a hit for their clients, this brief – he said – was the one they thought could help put them on the radar of top agencies in the highly competitive 90s advertising world.
They set their sights high. They vowed to take on Coca-Cola – the giant of the soft drinks sector – with a campaign that would stop people in their tracks.
“Where they had huge budget for media spend and advertising campaigns, Tango had to generate its own momentum – word of mouth was our media spend,” he recalled to The Guardian years after the ad aired.
“The actual idea started out as a joke. We said how brilliant it would be if you had a drink and something shocking happened, but so quickly that nobody else saw it. We also had the idea that it was only when commentators rewound the film that you could see what had happened.”
They drafted in comedian Hugh Dennis and footballer Ray Wilkins to deliver the dry punditry. The pair talk through an unfolding slow-motion scene of a man, painted completely orange, as he slaps a Tango drinker on the back and runs away.
Robinson said he knew the ad was good when he overheard a group of kids mimicking it on the London Underground.
Little did he know just how huge it would become.
Soon enough, kids in playgrounds up and down the country were aping the Tango slap. According to a Channel 4 program on the best ads of all time, a call to the marketing boss from a surgeon repairing a child’s eardrum damaged from ‘being Tangoed’ led to the reissue of a version that simply showed the ‘Orangeman’ instead kissing the head of the unsuspecting drinker.
The cheap and entertaining approach helped the spot stand out from the slick, beautifully scripted, blockbuster ads of the time. And, despite the controversy, Tango saw its sales rise by more than a third in the years after its debut.
As for Robinson and Young, they also saw phenomenal success after the campaign landed. Robinson went on to launch his own agency, Quiet Storm, which is still going strong today, while Young is an acclaimed chief creative officer at St Lukes.