World’s best ads ever #96: JR Hartley gets people using the Yellow Pages for non-emergencies
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.
In 1983, the British public’s heartstrings were well and truly tugged with the introduction of fictional character JR Hartley to promote the Yellow Pages.
Abbott Mead Vickers created the 60-second ad that depicts an elderly man searching for a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. After going from bookshop to bookshop, he returns home empty handed, which is when his daughter hands him the Yellow Pages which helps him finally find a shop that stocks it. The ad closes when the audience discovers the man is himself JR Hartley.
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The brief was to change the perception that Yellow Pages was just for emergencies but instead could be used for the nicer things in life. In the ad, the voiceover declares: “Good old Yellow Pages. We don’t just help with the nasty things in life like a blocked drain. We’re there for the nice things too.”
The ad busted the myth and, as a result, Yellow Pages saw inquiries into non-emergency classifications rise from 6% to 20%. Yellow Pages also saw a boost in inquiries to the British Library and bookshops.
JR Hartley became such a cultural phenomenon that eight years after it was released author Michael Russell ghost wrote Fly Fishing: Memories of Angling Days by JR Hartley, which went on to be published by Random House.
The ad was re-broadcast in 2001 in memory of the actor Norman Lumsden, who played JR Hartley, while Yellow Pages went on to remake the advert in 2011 with a fresh spin. This time, JR Hartley was replaced by fictional DJ Day V Lately who is in search of a copy of his trance remix Pulse and Thunder and finally finds it through the Yellow Pages app.