Ten earworm-tastic radio adverts from the last 40 years of Independent Local Radio
Four sources of inspiration are behind our latest Not So Perfect Ten. One is my memories of 1980s Independent Local Radio – Piccadilly Radio in particular. The second source is an episode of Pablo [CBeebies’/RTEJr’s exciting children’s television series] where Pablo is tickled by a radio advert. Which reminded me of my formative years with Piccadilly’s adverts. The third source of inspiration is Half Man Half Biscuit’s cover of Mandy.
Where does Half Man Half Biscuit enter the fray? Well, their cover version of Barry Manilow’s cover version of Brandy has an ‘advert’ for Maincrest Car and Van Hire (“seven double three, three, two-o-one…”). If you tuned into Radio City 194, the Wavertree based car and van hire company was one of its regular advertisers. Which proves one thing: more so than television adverts, commercial radio adverts are more likely to get under our skin for weeks on end. Maybe months. Years or decades even. Like the greatest radio jingles.
The fourth source of inspiration was a show I saw at The Lowry with John Culshaw. In his early years prior to stardom, he did the voices for countless ILR adverts in the North of England. Yes: Piccadilly Radio, Red Rose Radio, Radio City, and Viking Radio.
I am of that generation where ‘745 9494’ meant The Mortgage Point advert for several years. Some of today’s more recent radio ads have similar earworm-tastic properties. These will be acknowledged in our latest Not So Perfect Ten. As follows, here are the aforementioned adverts and the radio stations where I first heard them on (denoted in parenthesis).
- Robin Lloyd Associates (Capital Gold);
- Syd Abrams (Piccadilly Radio);
- Lionel Smith (Piccadilly Radio);
- Charnock Richard Cycles (Century 105/Real Radio);
- Chapelhouse (Real Radio XS);
- Bridge Cars (Tameside Radio);
- The Range (Red Rose Rock FM);
- The Mortgage Point (Piccadilly Radio/Key 103);
- PPI Hotline (LBC);
- Coldseal Windows (Capital Gold).
1. Robin Lloyd Associates
“The endowment people, Robin Lloyd… O seven thousand, triple two, triple one…”
Back in 2002, cashing in on unfair charges from your endowment policy was the in-thing. Like PPI claims are nowadays. Robin Lloyd Associates offered customers a chance to do just that, according to the advert trilled on Capital Gold. The company was based in Eastbourne before its 2004 acquisition by Skerritt Consultants. Its successors are still trading today, from an office in Hove.
2. Syd Abrams Car Supermarket
During the 1980s, the popular image of car dealers was being challenged by car supermarkets (like the long defunct Carcraft in Rochdale). In Cheetham Hill, one example was Syd Abrams’ on Waterloo Road. They flourished until 2010 and advertised on Piccadilly Radio as well as the Manchester Evening News‘ classified section. Their print advertisements even had the “Abrrrrammmmmmsssss…” tagline, as heard on the radio. On the radio, the vocal artist said “Abrrrrammmmmmsssss…” to the sound of a speeding motor car.
3. Lionel Smith
“Lionel Smith: the name you can trust.”
For our second car dealer themed radio advert we go to another part of Manchester. This time, Ashton Old Road in Ardwick, where Lionel Smith was based. Situated by the railway viaduct that links Ashburys with Park, it was noted for Volkswagen and Audi car sales. Their advert (once again on Piccadilly) was a straightforward affair with the tagline sung in a high pitched voice. Today, their dealership is home to a dairy.
4. Charnock Richard Cycles
“Buy a bike, buy a bike/Get down to Charnock Richard cycles…”
Including its present day guise as BuyABike.co.uk, Charnock Richard Cycles have been going for 42 years. In the early noughties, with cycling being seen as a healthy and environmental mode of transport, they turned to the radio to boost. The rest was Cheesy Advertising Jingle History with the “buy a bike” refrain getting under the skin of Lancastrian radio listeners. On their website, they are billed as The UK’s Largest Cycle Outlet.
“Chapelhouse, Chapelhouse, Chapelhouse, Chapelhouse, Chapelhouse, Chapelhouse, Chap Chap Chapelhouse…”
Back to four-wheeled transport. The jingle of our fifth entry is clearly penned by a fellow whose favourite childhood programme was Chockablock. I first heard the jingle on Real Radio XS in 2015 and thought: “radio jingle cheeeeeeessssssseee [sic]”. Yes, with cheese emphasised in a Syd Abrams style. Chapelhouse have four branches across Lancashire. They were founded in 1989 as a Proton dealership in St Helens.
Whoever penned this created a monster. So much so that Chapelhouse’s radio jingle made an equally earwormtastic move to television. And it worked. Only Kwik Save’s Liquorsave advert could stake a similar claim.
6. Bridge Cars
“Three-o-four eight thousand… Bridge Cars, Bridge Cars, here to take you home…”
On opening, Tameside Radio had a good jingle package by JAM Creative Productions, Dallas. Part of the novelty of listening to an ultra-local radio station is a new set of adverts to whistle your way through. The one for Bridge Cars was anything but suitable for whistling.
Advertising a now defunct minicab company based in Stalybridge (who were Tameside’s cheapest at one time), their advert was offbeat. Its musical soundtrack was the Bridge Cars tagline being sung to a trance style beat. Its piece de resistance was the spiel advertising the joys of Bridge Cars over catching the 343 bus.
The information was fine but the voice was dreadful. Our vocal artist’s dulcet tones are pulverised by fuzzy sound, akin to a taxi office radio. A great concept on crystal clear DAB or internet radio but on FM, lost in translation with a weak signal.
7. The Range
“Home, home on the Range… Yes it’s Big Jim here…”
Back in 1989, The Range was unheard of north of Totnes. In fact, Chris Dawson opened his first store in Plymouth that year, having previously been a market trader. His development of the chain and personal wealth is extraordinary (though falls outside the confines of this post).
Prior to today’s polished productions, its early 1990s radio adverts were more down to earth. They begun with a sung intro (“Home, home on The Range”) before leading to “Yes it’s Big Jim here…”, where we hear about their latest offers. The market stall style down-to-earth chic added a real charm to the adverts, and gave the impression of each shop having bargains galore. Today, The Range is in a similar market to Trago Mills in Cornwall, and B&M across the UK.
8. The Mortgage Point
“The Mortgage Point: seven four five, nine four nine four…”
If you have listened to your fair share of legacy ILR stations (by which I mean the first fifteen stations like BRMB, Radio Clyde and LBC as well as Piccadilly Radio), you would have come across this purveyor’s advert. The formula was simple: each advert began with identifying a need for customers wishing to join the property ladder. Or more precisely, customers who have been turned down by banks and building societies for a mortgage.
This was followed by the advert’s call to action: ‘The Mortgage Point’ being followed by its telephone number. As their ads were taken on by various commercial radio stations, they used the same advertisement, albeit with one variation: each branch’s number. What was ‘745 9494’ in Piccadilly Radio territory would be ‘Preston 880080’ on Red Rose Radio’s patch. Or, “eighty-eight o-eight o-eight”.
The Mortgage Point had branches across the UK. By 2012, the global financial downturn (caused to some extent by sub-prime mortgages and toxic investments) had affected the business. On the 08 February that year, they were subject to a winding-up order.
9. PPI Hotline
“PPI Hotline/Text ‘WIN’ to eight three triple two.”
For me, there are usually two reasons for tuning into LBC: Shelagh Fogarty’s afternoon programme or – more often than not – James O’Brien’s late morning show. I would listen more if it wasn’t for the PPI adverts in between! There’s The Claims Guys, HaveIGotPPI.com, and the self explanatory PPI Hotline.
PPI Hotline is a brand name of Direct Redress Limited and they are based in Knutsford. In all fairness there are no frills to PPI Hotline’s ad. Some spiel, and a call to action: the text message number. Though the advert opens with “are you confused about PPI”, I would have been slightly more confused over choosing any one of the three companies on LBC.
Ever since the IBA granted its first ILR licence, ads for double glazing have been a staple of commercial radio stations. From Astraseal to Weatherseal, price and fitting have often been used as bargaining tools. Some like Coldseal reinvented the story of the Three Little Pigs. Instead of the straw house, we have one little piggy who opted for wooden framed windows. The second one went for DIY windows.
The advertisement worked well on all radio stations. It was amusing enough for listeners to take heed of its message. On the other side, things weren’t exactly rosy for Coldseal customers. Their dealings attracted the attention of BBC One’s Watchdog and the original company went bust in 2004.
What do you think of our ten adverts? Could you elaborate on the ten or do you have any suggestions of your own? If anyone has an audio file to the Bridge Cars advert, please, please, please pass us the link.
S.V., 10 February 2018.