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Creative BBC Future of TV

On the BBC’s 100th birthday, here are 5 of our favorite ads from its archives


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

October 18, 2022 | 4 min read

On October 18 1922, the BBC started its first daily radio service in London. For the following century, the world’s oldest national broadcaster has been a constant in many of our lives. To mark its milestone birthday, we look back at some of its most memorable ads and idents.


The First Steps 2012 Olympic ad from the BBC / BBC

1. TV Licence (1985)

Monty Python star John Cleese featured in this star-studded 80s ad that played on the ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’ sketch by the comedy troupe.

In the short video, viewers see an exasperated Cleese enter a bar and ask for a double gin and tonic, which he says is needed after paying £58 for his TV license.

As he begins to question what the BBC actually does for us to warrant such a cost, famous faces throughout the pub pipe up with some answers.

2. Small People’s TV (1998)

This retro ad highlighted the BBC’s breadth of kids’ TV shows, including Postman Pat, The Magic Roundabout and Noddy. The short film starred child actor Scott Chisholm dressed in a retro school uniform walking through each of the shows and interacting with the characters.

It was first shown on December 1 1998, within the Children in Need charity program, and also featured presenter Zoe Ball.

3. Rhythm & Movement (2002)

BBC One’s 15 ‘Rhythm & Movement’ idents were designed by Lambie-Nairn and used on the channel until 2006.

The ‘basketball’ spot showed three athletes dancing in their wheelchairs to a hip-hop tune. Led by British Paralympic basketball player and presenter Ade Adepitan, the choreographed video is made up of different wheelchair-basketball moves used in the game.

4. What A Wonderful World (2011)

David Attenborough has worked at the BBC since 1950 and has starred in many of the broadcaster’s ads throughout the years.

This particular spot from over a decade ago sees the presenter recite the lyrics to Louis Armstrong’s classic song What a Wonderful World as images of Earth fill the screen.

5. First Steps (2012)

Created by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, this animated ad was to promote London hosting the Olympic Games back in 2012.

With an original score from Elbow’s Guy Garvie, the uplifting video showed various CGI athletes running, swimming and cycling through the city and surrounding landscape.

As the short film ends, the camera pans out and viewers see London landmarks including Big Ben, the London Eye and the Shard.

Additional reporting by Hannah Bowler.

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