Ridley Scott's Hovis advert is voted all-time favourite

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The Independent Online

It was an instant advertising classic. A small boy pushes a bike laden with loaves of bread up the cobbled street of a northern town to the strains of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, arranged for brass band. Now the 1973 commercial for Hovis, directed by Ridley Scott, has been voted the favourite advertisement of all time.

To mark the bread manufacturer's 120th anniversary this year, the commercial will return to British television screens for a 10-day run from 10 May.

In a poll of 1,000 people, the Hovis commercial was deemed more popular than classic ads for Milk Tray, Ferrero Rocher and Bisto.

Now one of Hollywood's leading directors, who made Gladiator, Alien and Thelma and Louise, Scott began his career as a director of commercials.

He directed a series of adverts for Hovis, including "Bike Ride" in 1973. Contrary to popular belief, the commercial was not filmed in the north of England, but on Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, which has become a tourist attraction.

The original boy on the bike, Carl Barlow, then 13, is now a 46-year-old firefighter.

He said: "Working with Ridley Scott at such a young age was a privilege, although at the time, he hadn't made his break into the epic films he is now best known for.

"It was pure fate that I got the part as the Hovis boy. I was down to the last three, and it turned out that one of the two boys couldn't ride a bike, and the other wouldn't cut his hair into the pudding bowl style - it was the Seventies after all. As the only boy who could ride a bike and would cut his hair, I got the part." Bill Maynard, who played the baker, later starred in the ITV shows Heartbeat and The Royal.

Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, inspired by the discovery of the Americas, has become so closely associated with the brand that Classic FM regularly receives requests for the "Hovis music".

Hovis's marketing controller Scott Clarke, said: "It's fantastically evocative and the music is iconic. The whole 120th anniversary is about celebrating brown bread. Consumers are concerned about health and it's about trying to get that message across."

The original Hovis wheatgerm loaf was developed in 1886 by Richard Stoney Smith. An early advertisement featured a man with muscles made from Hovis loaves, with the slogan: "Hovis bread and biscuits form good bone, brain, flesh and muscle".

Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers, stars of The Good Life, appeared in advertisements for the brand in the 1980s and more recently the Oscar-winning Aardman Animations has created commercials for the packaged bread.

From its outset, the brand has had an eye for a PR opportunity. When it was launched, a nationwide competition was held to find an appropriate name. A London student, Herbert Grimes, came up with the winning moniker, a shortened version of the Latin phrase Hominis Vis, meaning "Strength of Man".

A free exhibition marking Hovis's 120-year history is being held at the United Grand Lodge in London from 11 to 13 May.

The top ads


Nostalgia-laden scenes of cobbled street with brass-band backing. Polled 32.4 per cent


Box of chocolates arrives courtesy of stranger in polo-neck who abseils through the bedroom window. Why? Because "the lady loves Milk Tray". 17.9 per cent


If parody is the sincerest form of flattery, this takes the prize. A butler roams an ambassador's party bearing a tray of the hazelnut treats. "Monsieur, you're really spoiling us," says one guest in mock protest. 12.2 per cent

Honourable mentions

Bisto kids - the perfect nuclear family sit down to Sunday lunch with the visible waft from the gravy boat.

Guinness - another glass from the stout brewer, this time a seaside location with thoroughbred horses racing in slow-motion through the surf. Shot in trademark black and white.

Budweiser - After frogs, the gekko has become the new face of the American brew. Ill-tempered conversation between the two lizards takes place in front of a neon lit bar.