Parody in advertising: the TV adverts that prove it works

Parody in advertising always divides opinion. Is it a cop out for when you can’t think of anything original, or a clever way to maximise awareness? Personally, if done well, I’m with the latter. As long as you choose to parody something that’s well liked, you’re able to associate your brand with something which has already infiltrated the minds of the public, and so, feed off its ‘buzz’.

Some really great TV adverts have been created by parodying popular movies. And when I asked members of the creative department to name their favourites, I was introduced to many more. So take a look at my top parodying picks and see why a clever spoof can work wonders when done right.

Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Indiana Jones

I have a reasonable excuse for not having come across this advert until a coworker showed it to me: I’d yet to be born while this advert was airing. I grew up watching Dawn French claim the Chocolate Orange as hers. But even after first viewing it decades on, I can see why it’s a firm favourite.

The 80s campaign centered around the question ‘How safe is yours?’ A tagline that I think is on par with ‘It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine’. Indiana Jones was a huge hit at the time and so to ensure the safety of a Chocolate Orange, a wife hid it in a cave inside their home protected by shooting spears and rolling boulders – replicating the sort of obstacles Harrison Ford would face in his films. It’s silly, creative and clever in using such a (apparently) popular film at the time to parody.

Saga and Up

Firstly, I’d like to admit to a soft spot I have for Larry Lamb – and his son for that matter. I also really enjoyed the film ‘Up’ (yes, tears were shed over animation). But what makes this advert magical is that it’s a brilliant example of storytelling through both audio and visual. The lovely Larry tells us the story of Saga, starting with its humble beginnings as a small hotel in Folkstone. The building then breaks from its foundations and floats into the sky and over different parts of the world to illustrate the different holidays they offer. It’s visually stunning and the story, beautifully told.

Lynx and Top Gun

Tom Cruise fans will appreciate the easy-on-the-eye males who appear in this ad, while Top Gun fans will appreciate the effort the makers have gone to putting a great spin on an iconic scene. ‘Don’t let irritation clip your wings’ is a clever concept – and the Top Gun tie-in is strong. But the reason I really like it is because being able to fly would be my chosen super hero power. Yes, I think about these things. You know, just in case.

Nik Naks and Alien

Well, well, well. A banned advert has made it in my top 5. Apparently, parodying the well-know stomach-bursting scene from Alien was complained about to Ofcom because it was scaring children. I watched The Exorcist at 7 and I turned just fine…

Anyway, it’s the end of the ad where the Nik Nak Alien dances to Chic’s Le Freak that made this commercial a winner in my books. Giving a famous scene a genuinely funny twist is the perfect way to do a parody ad.

PG Tips and When Harry Met Sally

There’s a certain famous scene from When Harry Met Sally that has been parodied time and time again. This time, it’s the PJ Tips Monkey who is taking on the role of Sally, with Johnny Vegas as Harry. Johnny asks Monkey how he would describe the taste of PJ Tips and Monkey replies with… well, just watch. It’s a great ad because it’s short, simple, and a clear, unapologetic rip off.