What do you think you’re playing at by name checking former Hallé Orchestra conductors? 

The Ad of Christmas Past

DER. Or if you prefer to use its original name, Domestic and Electrical Rentals. The advertisement eschews the ‘do not touch’ approach by encouraging customers to try before they rent! Which in the mid 1980s when this ad came out, was an antithesis to other white goods retailers of the time.


We see a rather playful jazzy style tune with friendly staff and future customers playing with televisions. A video recorder being played about with; the first wave of stereo televisions is seen in shot. Near the end, thanks to the wonders of wireless remote controls, we see a fellow ‘conducting’ the tellies by paging the ORACLE. Cue female actor who chirrups this line, “what do you think you’re playing at Barbirolli?” The line is a tad ironic given that Andre Previn sold Ferguson Videostar VCRs.

The jazzy style of the tune sounds like a composition by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. (Please correct me if I’m wrong). The end line of tomorrow’s world being here for you today referred to the merits of renting over buying a new set.

The Shop of Christmas Past

In the 1970s and 1980s, the smallest of towns had about a similar number of television rental shops as they do with phone shops today. DER was formed by Thorn Electrical Industries as Domestic and Electrical Rentals. They were formed in 1938 from a single shop in Twickenham, Middlesex. In 1954, this expanded to ten shops.

By 1968, the company had 397 shops. Its television sets were made by Thorn, a link which continued till the company’s demise. From the 1970s and 1980s, this included TVs and VHS video cassette recorders under their Ferguson brand name. Radio Rentals joined its parent company Thorn Electrical Industries.

The DER name continued till 1995. Along with Rumbelows, its shops were swallowed up by the Thorn EMI/Granada juggernaut Box Clever. Another incarnation of DER continued as DER Direct. Advertising on Second Division satellite and cable channels, it offered the same rental services but no shops. Come and Play became Come and Pay. With Direct Debit.

S.V., 18 December 2015.

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