Rachel Forde of UM picks her Desert Island Ads

Rachel Forde became UK CEO of media agency UM in July 2018. She was previously with Publicis, where she held senior positions at ZenithOptimedia and Starcom Mediavest. At SMG, she was MD of the P&G United division, looking after Publicis Groupe’s largest UK client, before bringing together Spark and Mediavest and as CEO overseeing its rebrand to Spark Foundry.

Desert Island Ads

The best ads will never leave you. They might take you back to a particular time in your life, or speak to a part of you in a way you perhaps can’t even describe to yourself. I’ve chosen a number of ‘classic’ ads because the best ones are exactly that, classic.

JR Hartley – Yellow Pages

The JR Hartley ad for Yellow Pages is definitely one that sticks in my mind. Previously everyone had a Yellow Pages in their home but you didn’t really think about it and probably only used it in emergencies. This ad brought warm emotion to what was essentially a book of business details and made it almost “part of the family.” I’ve included it in my list because it was so clever and of course, it led to the other famous Yellow Pages ‘mistletoe’ ad from the ‘90s.

Levi’s 501 – Laundrette

An absolute classic that had to be on my list. The main reason I love it, apart from the obvious and the fact that it made Nick Kamen an instant household name, is that they brought an old hit back into everyone’s minds to make it a hit once again. It proved to be an invaluable lesson to all advertisers that an ad can be made or broken by its soundtrack.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye was an incredible choice and I think a lot of people would associate this song with the Levi’s ad even now. Levi’s of course then went on to make more unforgettable ads that made each song a hit: Spaceman by Babylon Zoo, Turn on, Tune in, Cop out by Freak Power, Underwater Love by Smoke City, Mr Oizo’s Flat Beat….all became instant hits due to Levi’s ads. It was among the first examples of integrated marketing.

Sony Bravia – Balls

Another example of an ad making a song and vice versa. You couldn’t help but be captivated by all the colour and the sheer simplicity of a brilliant ad with an amazing song, plus it made Jose Gonzales a star too.

Coca-Cola – Holidays are Coming

The fact is it’s not Christmas until this ad is shown on all our devices. Coca-Cola has done something incredible by immersing itself so heavily in this time of year that it’s now become synonymous with Christmas. This ad, with its jingle of “the holidays are coming,” is genius.

John Lewis – Buster the Boxer

Still on the Christmas theme, I don’t think anyone in the UK can have a Desert Island Ads without a John Lewis ad in there. I personally loved the snowman love story in 2012, but I had to put 2016’s Buster the Boxer up there because I have a dog and it just struck a chord with me on a different level. Such a clever ad.

Jaffa Cakes – Total Eclipse

This made my list because it resonated so highly with my family and me, that we honestly cannot eat a Jaffa Cake without reciting “full moon, half moon, total eclipse.” Light-hearted, funny and memorable.

Sport England – This Girl Can – and Always – Like a Girl

As a mother of two girls, these ads are so profound to me and I believe they marked a tidal change for advertising. They blew apart the gender stereotypes we’d seen for so long and encouraged girls and women to be – and appreciate – themselves in a way that had never been seen before. Advertising at its most powerful.

Heineken – Worlds Apart

This ad challenged biases and stereotypes, which is a subject very close to our hearts at UM. We’ve looked to challenge the norm and look closer at the ad industry and how it reflects society in our UK by UM insight series. We need to do more to challenge stereotypes and set an example, and work like this is our best chance.

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