You saw the ad and bought the dress. But what about the hatchback?

Meg Carter looks at the spin-off industry created by cult commercials

Unbelievable but true, a dress worn in the latest Gold Blend TV commercial was sold for pounds 2,500 at auction in June. Meanwhile Harry, the angel faced toddler in the Safeway advertising campaign, recently launched his own range of tea-towels, mugs and badges. And Terry, star of the Pot Noodle ads, has his own fan club with the obligatory range of merchandise due out this autumn.

Proof, if any were needed, of the pervasive power of advertising. But make no mistake, the 'cult' status enjoyed by a growing number of ads is no accident. Advertisers are finally waking up to the potential of selling us not only their products, but a range of campaign spin-offs, too. Insiders call it the "Levi's effect" as each time the jeans brand launches a new commercial, the soundtrack inevitably ends up riding high in the pop charts.

Certain ads have always caught the public's imagination. When Volkswagen ran a TV commercial featuring a young woman apparently driving to a wedding (in fact, she was just about to get divorced), hundreds of women inundated BMP DDB Needham, the agency behind the campaign, with requests for VHS copies. The ad's success even persuaded pop group The Bluebells, whose song 'Young at Heart' featured in the ad, to re-form.

Meanwhile, another VW commercial - featuring a small girl being driven through the mean streets of a big city - was immortalised in greetings cards and posters by Athena. Sales were apparently fuelled by mums eager to show hairdressers how to re-create the blonde, ringletted look for their own little dears.

Sometimes, even the most peripheral minutiae can catch the public's eye. Sales of a pair of Tiffany earrings (pounds 85) worn in one Gold Blend ad soared after the commercial broke on air.

It was only a matter of time before some sharp suit decided to cash in. Amongst the first was the fashion industry. Debenhams reproduced the Just Divorced girl's hat for under pounds 30. When Nicole, the French gamine in the Renault Clio campaign, appeared in one ad wearing a scoop-front spotty dress, a high street craze was born. "We were inundated with calls," says Mark Robinson, new business director at Publicis, Renault's ad agency. Luckily, Miss Selfridge came out with a similar number at just the right time: the frock sold at pounds 19.99. "We referred all callers to their local branch."

Then came coffee. Gold Blend's 'will they, won't they?' romantic saga has spawned a book, Love over Gold, which reached Number 4 in the charts; a compilation video; two CDs (pounds 17.99 and pounds 12.99) and the Alternative Euro 96 London film season (for the "soft at heart"). "We decided to advertise it like a soap and promote it like a television programme," says Jerry Green, creative director at McCann Erickson which created the campaign. "It's golden publicity for Gold Blend."

And now snack products. Following their success with Gary Lineker, Walker's Crisps has launched a new flavour: Salt'n'Lineker. (Rumours of plans for a second - Tears'n'Onion in honour of a subsequent ad featuring a weeping Gazza, remain unconfirmed). Meanwhile, Golden Wonder has launched a range of merchandise and even a fan club based on the characters in the current Pot Noodle campaign. "Our entire approach is for brands to provide an experience for the consumer in as many ways as we can," explains Steve Henry, a partner at HHCL, the agency behind the Pot Noodle ads. Each features a battle of wills between a character called Ned Noodle (who dresses up as a Pot Noodle) and Terry - a man from Pontypridd who campaigns against Pot Noodle's "fibrous lies".

So far, the range of Ned-inspired promotional products, includes a wall clock (six Pot Noodle lids plus pounds 7.99), fridge magnets (six lids plus pounds 1.99), and a tea-towel (five lids plus pounds 1.99). A bendy latex Ned will be launched in October. And Terry has his own club: the League Against Fibrous Lies, with a membership pack and campaign materials available to whoever writes in.

"Producing ads in a vacuum is pointless," Howell says. "It's too expensive to do communication that doesn't last." Spin-off merchandise produces a lasting reminder that sits on the desk or in the home. Back in the Seventies it worked for Fred, Homepride's graded grain man. Once immortalised in plastic, replica flour shakers quickly infiltrated kitchens across the land. And now Tango, another HHCL client: "So far, we've sold 250,000 orange rubber men."

According to industry folklore, when battery manufacturer Energiser launched a US TV campaign featuring a drum-banging pink rabbit (subsequently know as the Energiser Bunny) it quickly discovered it was making more money from selling pink bunnies than batteries.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12Months

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12 Months | 500/...

    Business Systems Analyst - London - £40,000 plus benefits

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Business Syst...

    Campaign Manager

    £40000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Campaign Man...

    JQuery Developer (JQuery, C#, front-end, JQuery, UI, Tomcat)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organ...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil