J R Hartley remix taps a new generation

It has been nearly three decades since the fictional author J R Hartley first enchanted the nation with his televised search for a copy of his own book, Fly Fishing. Now the classic TV advert is being remade for the digital age.

The original 1983 version featured actor Norman Lumsden trawling through bookshops looking for an out of print book on fly fishing by J R Hartley. He eventually finds it after calling a shop located in the phone directory Yellow Pages, whereupon he reveals that he is the author.

Tonight, a modern version of the advert will air, with a DJ in search of his one time hit Nineties dance record.

The former DJ, called Day V Lately, goes through London record shops looking for his old dance track "Pulse and Thunder". Like Hartley, it is Lately's daughter who eventually helps him find the record, but instead of giving him the Yellow Pages she uses an up-to-date Yell smart phone app.

The original campaign became so well-known it was been parodied by Harry Enfield, spawned a Fry and Laurie sketch, and inspired two imitation books by Michael Russell using J R Hartley as a pseudonym. It continues to be a popular source of nostalgia on YouTube.

The original Yellow Pages have now been rendered largely redundant by the internet. According to the Local Government Association, unwanted phone books create 75,000 tons of waste paper a year.

In truth, the revived advert is a bid to exploit nostalgia for the old ad and bolster the its online service, as paper directories fade into obsolescence. Yell's share price plummeted from 59p to 10p last year as profits slumped.

David Parslow, UK brand and communications director at Yell, said: "What better way to demonstrate how our offering has evolved over the past few years than to modernise our most iconic advert. The campaign will aim to show that Yell now offers more instant information on businesses in the UK than ever before."

Robert Opie, director of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London, said: "The ad ran long enough to become a classic. I think people will engage with a new one, but surely these days it should be pretty easy for him to find what he's looking for in a couple of minutes on the internet?"

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