Leigh Whitnall

Becks and Brylcreem: adverts that made me want to get into advertising and why

I grew up in what I consider to be the golden age of advertising, the 1980s. This was a time when TV advertising could be as popular as the programmes they interrupted, when people genuinely cared about the blossoming romance of the Gold Blend couple and jingles could infect your consciousness to such an extent that, even now, hearing the first few bars can prompt an involuntary word-for-word recital.

However, for me the ad that made me want to get into advertising was a press ad from the late 1990s starring a man that was about to become a brand himself. At the time I was writing an essay for my Media Studies class about the psychology behind branding and advertising, which included a case study on the transformation of Brylcreem. The hair product had, along with Brut and Old Spice, been left behind in a world where men, fuelled by the lad-mag boom were becoming increasingly self conscious about their appearance.

Brylcreem had wisely spotted the huge potential in a good looking young footballer called David Beckham to be the face of their relaunched, repackaged product, advertising heavily in FHM and Loaded magazine at a time when those publications were enjoying their heyday. My perception of the product altered almost overnight and, as I analysed it, I found myself shocked and impressed at the way I had been manipulated and wanted to learn more. I clearly remember deciding at that moment that I wanted to work in advertising and I’ve never wanted to do anything else since.