Julian Gratton

Remembering those great Cinzano TV Adverts

Produced since 1757, Cinzano vermouth has a long history of producing refreshing beverages and Saturday-morning hangovers. This Italian brand came to prominence in Britain through an intelligent ad campaign that debuted in 1978, starring an unlikely but superb duo of the sultry Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter, who starred as the miserly landlord Rigsby in the popular TV series Rising Damp.

Perhaps most importantly, once Cinzano found a winning formula, they recognised it and stuck with it. The ads were built on a witty repertoire, which still managed to incorporate pleasant descriptions of the drink (thus highlighting Cinzano’s USP), whilst keeping viewers entertained.

In virtually every advert, Rossiter’s character describes Cinzano’s virtues in a cultured, slightly pretentious fashion, before inevitably spilling the drink onto Collins. In perhaps the finest advert, visiting Japanese businessmen hear Rossiter speak of the tradition of Cinzano, before spilling the drink on Collins – which the businessmen all do in the spirit of ‘tradition’. It’s a premise that has become synonymous with Cinzano’s advertising, and the accidents frequently come from Rossiter’s distraction at describing the many virtues of Cinzano – again a subtle way of promoting the unique selling point of the fruity beverage.

Over 35 years later, the fresh dialogue and the artful praising of a product without appearing pushy or dull, marks the Cinzano campaign out as one of the most intelligently concepted and executed TV ad campaigns of all time.

The nostalgia which surrounds these advert is not misplaced – whilst stunning visual effects and groundbreaking concepts have continued to develop in advertising, Cinzano’s superb 1970s campaign is proof that good dialogue, star chemistry and subtlety can be the key components for a successful campaign.