Grey London’s Sue Higgs picks her Desert Island (funny!) Ads

Sue Higgs is a group creative director at Grey London.

Desert Island Ads

From the school of the bleeding obvious, it would appear the world has gone to hell in a handcart.

But I’m no Laura Kuenssberg, I’m a mere creative director of 30 years who’s been asked to pick some desert island ads.

So my first thought is what the world could do with is a laugh. Stop taking it all so seriously, innit.

And I’ll need some entertainment on this island as I’m also no Bear Grylls.

Full disclosure, my first thought was ‘oh bollocks.’

I looked through some previous top tens and a lot of the classics are already taken; I mean it stands to reason that Guinness, Levi’s and Hamlet already call the island home so I’m digging deeper for some gems.

So I’ve gone funny. Harder than you think is funny. Hard to sell to clients too, because if they don’t see it in the script they don’t buy it. It’s hard to get funny through on an animatic and it can be so subtle and visual. Imagine Mr Bean as a script; not that he’s funny, but you get my point.

Funny also seems out of vogue in a purpose-driven planet.

But in the autumn of my years I realise how seriously important funny is.

You can say so much with funny: good stuff, bad stuff and people will like you. I like brands that entertain me.

And in the over misquoted words of Maya Angelou, “You won’t remember what people said, only how they made you feel,” this bunch did both. I laughed and – call me a saddo – but I still remember them after all these years.

“The waarter in majoaarca.”

“Mr Foot long hot dog inventor”

“We’ve overdone it on the sherry.”

All these phrases rattle through my napper and I still slip them into conversations.

I will comment lightly as they speak for themselves, and leave you to enjoy these.

Bud Light – Greetings Card

John Smith – Wardrobe

Carlton – Made From Beer

I remember this coming out as a fabulous pisstake of all the big ads that were so en vogue at the time.

Heineken – Water in Majorca

Anecdote time..I joined Lowe Howard-Spink as this was being made. My creative director at the time told me the story of how this had started as the ‘Rain in Spain,’ but the publishers were saying no. Frank Lowe didn’t want to bin the ad and advised, “paraphrase dear boy.” So the Rain in Spain became the Water in Majorca. Better.

Budweiser – Real Men of Genius

Unlike one of those annoying ads that chases you round the internet after you’ve looked at some slippers in John Lewis, this one followed me round in me head. Better.

Castlemaine – XXXX

Carling Black Label – Dambusters

This exercise leads me to wonder, why aren’t beer ads entertaining anymore? I don’t even like beer but I like beer ads. Beer ads used to be entertaining and funny. Now they’re all taking themselves ever so seriously, like how old they are, what year they started, how they’ve been brewed in an urban micro library on a hermit’s wooden staff blah blah blah. Who cares??? But I’m on a desert island so I’m ranting to myself, a concept I’m strangely familiar with.

Finishing off with some non-beer ads.

Mike’s Hard Lemonade – Lumberjack

Fox Sports – Major League Baseball

Fox Sports – Tool Safety

End note

I note that a lot of these are old and many are American. Which leads me to conclude that we’ve lost our sense of humour?

They’re not funny for funny’s sake, they make a brand message with humour and talk to us on eye level. We talk a lot about getting into culture, but these played with culture, got into culture.

Good writing and funny bones, that’ll do me on this island.


  1. What a great Desert Island Ads. piece. I could not agree more with everything Sue says. Yes, today everyone seems so po-faced and take themselves so seriously. My creative director at CDP, John Salmon, used to impress on us “if you are going to interrupt people in their own homes, entertain them”. All of this selection certainly does! Sue is dead right about the Sherry line. Use it myself. Often. Wonderful.

  2. A great and memorable selection, Sue. I had the luck and privilege to be PM (or Traffic Manager, as it was in its previous guise) on Carling during those golden days. I can clearly remember chuckling as I read the script for the first time before routing it around for the various important approval signatures…Kes Gray and Jonathon Greenhalgh, I salute you!

  3. Bloody marvelous Sue. I know you gave it a golden pass, but I still piss myself whenever I watch the Hamlet photo booth spot, directed by my old mate Graham Rose. Yes, the lack of humour is in reality a reflection on the state of what was once a fun business to be in whilst enjoying three martini lunches and shooting every spot somewhere exotic and expensive… Ah… Long gone. Time to overdo it on the sherry.

  4. Dear George, you are spot on. Funnily enough the Hamlet Photobooth was the cheapest we ever did for Hamlet (no Caribbean beaches for us, but buckets of Martinis!) and it’s proved to be one of the most famous spots ever. As you say, all power to dear Graham Rose

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