Top 10 British TV adverts: from Guinness to Smash

Poll to find most beloved TV ads marks 60th anniversary of first ever ad break

(Image credit: Coca-Cola/YouTube)

Sixty years ago today, the very first televised advert was broadcast on British television. At 8.12pm, a variety programme was interrupted to show a smiling woman brushing her teeth while a voiceover told the viewer that Gibbs SR toothpaste was "fresh as ice".

Labour MP John Wilmot was soon railing against "the nightly poison of advertising which boosts the sale of goods to the working class" but the floodgates had opened. By the time televisions became ubiquitous in the nation's homes, ad breaks were as much a part of the TV experience as the evening news.

Through the ingenuity of creative advertising teams, some ad campaigns have become legendary, remembered even decades after they aired. To mark the 60th anniversary, industry publication Marketing Magazine polled the public to create a list of the nation's favourite ad campaigns. Here is the top ten countdown, as chosen by UK viewers:

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10 Levi's (Laundrette) – 4 per cent

An Elvis-esque hunk strips off in a laundrette to the strains of Heard It Through The Grapevine. The risqué 1985 ad campaign caught the public imagination and restored the veteran jeans brand to 'cool' status.

9 John Lewis (Always a woman) – 5 per cent

John Lewis adverts have become notorious tearjerkers. This classic example, from 2010, followed a woman from infancy to old age – and led to a sales increase of 39.7 per cent.

8 Guinness (Surfer) – 5 per cent

Voted number one in Channel 4's countdown of the 100 Greatest TV Ads, this unforgettable advert showed a group of surfers battling against huge waves as white horses leap from within the foam.

7 Budweiser – 5 per cent

The advert that made 'Whasssuuuppp' a catchphrase for a few incredibly annoying months in 1999.

6 Coca-Cola (I'd like to teach the world to sing) – 7 per cent

The ultimate feelgood ad showed teenagers from all over the world gathered on a hillside to warble a catchy ditty promoting love, brotherhood, and (of course) Coca-Cola.

5 Yellow Pages (JR Hartley) – 7 per cent

Ask any Brit over the age of 30 what they associate with the Yellow Pages and the answer will probably be 'fly-fishing', thanks to the memorable 1980s ad campaign featuring fictional author JR Hartley.

4 Hamlet cigars – 7 per cent

Ian Botham, Ronnie Corbett and Rab C Nesbitt star Gregor Fisher were among those who starred in the long-running tobacco ads, easily identified by their use of Bach's Air on the G String.

3 Smash Martians – 11 per cent

Aliens mocked humans who still relied on the old-fashioned way of making mashed potato in this memorable campaign for powdered mash manufacturer Smash.

2 Compare the Market – 16 per cent

Russian meerkats Aleksandr and Sergei became an unexpected sensation after they appeared promoting price comparison site Compare the Market.

1 Cadbury Gorilla – 19 per cent

The viral ad, which featured a CGI gorilla drumming to Phil Collins's hit In The Air Tonight, was notable for not actually showing or mentioning Cadbury's products.

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