Hovis drops clean image with 'South Park' style ads

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The Independent Online

Hovis is ditching the cobbled streets, cosily nostalgic script and soft focus, sepia-tinted photography that helped to establish it as one of Britain's best-loved brands.

Instead a dysfunctional, foul-mouthed cartoon family, inspired by the controversial American South Park series, will promote the traditional loaf brand.

One of the four new television commercials that will appear from next week features seven-year-old Harry and his schoolfriend Alfie, competing over who knows the rudest words.

After offerings of "pooh", "fart", "big jobs" and "pants", the two have exhausted their repertoire, but a break for a Hovis sandwich soon prompts a flurry of new material.

In another, Hannah, Harry's 13-year-old sister, who punctuates her sentences with words such as "gross" and "wicked", is seen arguing with her mother in the kitchen about the contents of her packed lunch.

The advertisements could not be further from those that made the Hovis brand famous in the 1970s.

Ridley Scott, the Oscar- winning director of Gladiator and Blade Runner, filmed the original Hovis boy pushing his bicycle up a steep, cobbled hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, to the strains of Dvorak's New World symphony, in 1975. An earlier advertisement featured the same boy packing his Hovis sandwiches in anattempt to run away from home, only to be persuaded back by a kind-hearted postman.

John Webster, executive creative director at the advertising agency BMP DDB and creator of the instant potato Smash "Martians" and the Sugar Puffs "Honey Monster", was hired by Hovis to create the advertisements.

He admitted that they may shock some viewers. "We had trouble getting some of it past the BACC [the TV advertising watchdog]," he said. "They rejected some suggestions and have insisted that one of the ads can only be broadcast after 9pm.

"But I've been fascinated with some recent animation ­ stuff like The Simpsons, King of the Hill and South Park. The latter more than anything has had a real influence on the family we've created.

"The new ads represent modern attitudes and are meant to be humorous, whereas the old ones were romantic and old-fashioned.

"They used to make some of the classic commercials of all time ­ people remember them and like them, but they're buying Kingsmill. I had to bring the brand into this century."

It was Mr Webster who persuaded the comedian Jack Dee to perform with penguins for a series of highly praised advertisements for John Smith's bitter, and Muhammad Ali to promote milk for Unigate.