Advertising Scotland Branding

The highs and lows of Scottish advertising

By Mike Kettles | executive creative director

June 5, 2019 | 5 min read

I was nine years old when I first began noticing effective advertising. Specifically, on the backs of soft drink trucks as I pedalled around Dundee’s West End delivering newspapers.


Every day my route would position me behind these moving billboards for locally produced soft drinks and past their point of origin, the Robertson Fruit products factory. This was the regal seat of the undisputed (local) king of drinks - pola cola. The brand’s icon, ‘pola the bear’ is as much a part of my marketing DNA as the taglines he announced; “pola cola – the drink that makes you wanna dance” and “keep cool – drink pola cola” to name but two.

Indeed, these inspired the acid tests of effective communication that have stayed with me throughout my career; ‘what are you trying to get me to do?’ and ‘does it make me want to do that thing as much as that polar bear made me ‘wanna’ dance’ and, ‘keep cool’?

Irn Bru - Everybody in the world loves Irn Bru

Let’s continue on the glow in the dark Scottish fizzy drink theme for this release in 2000. The latest Irn Bru ad was always something ‘we’ looked forward to with anticipation for their wit, bravery and boundary-pushing creativity.

This ad is a testament to a brave idea that was gotten behind, produced and run, for better or worse (featured to remind me of how far we have come as an industry) as it was ultimately banned in 2003 after receiving complaints from 17 viewers.

Its effectiveness was in its attention-grabbing creative, making the whole country talk about it.

Johnnie Walker - The Man Who Walked Around The World

Justin Moore’s Masterpiece – 30 Seconds? 60 Seconds? – No, six minutes please, and it never fails to disappoint.

For consumers to be engaged for that amount of time this shows how effective the advert truly was. Scotland’s national treasure, Begbie, turns chief storyteller as he marches through the Highlands on the last take of the day absolutely nailing the story of Johnnie Walker.

From the opening quip of “hey piper – shut it” to lobbing crystal glasses into the heather in disgust – an incredible piece of content that grew from an internal communication film to a brand reappraisal tool that millions have been understandably happy to spend time with.

Scotts Porridge Oats – Ice Swim

Interestingly, this ad was not banned despite its rampant stereotyping and misrepresentation, all capped off nicely by a starring role for ‘The Hound’ from Game Of Thrones.

Yes, as a nation we drink too much.

Yes, we like the odd deep-fried Mars bar on the side of our haggis and neeps.

But swimming with our sporrans on?

McVities Penguin - P-p-p-pick up a Penguin

What do you get when you mix Derek Nimmo and penguins riding round in dodgem cars?

An earworm like no other and one of the most successful, and memorable (voted 3rd catchiest jingle of all time) comms platforms.

The only animal-based advertising to give the PG chimps a run for their tea bags still features in illustrative form on the pack to this day. Hopefully, only that form will continue, and we can avoid further crazed action scenes like these going forward.

There’s a saying in Scotland that asks ‘Wha’s like us?’ and you would have to agree that when it comes to communications like those featured the only answer is ‘wha indeed?’

Mike Kettles is executive creative director of Momentum Worldwide.

Advertising Scotland Branding

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