We all have those favourite adverts that stick with us over the years. Whether they’re poignant, funny, scary, weird or annoying, we tend to remember certain TV ads long after they’ve gone off the air.
Along with the themes, songs and scripts, we often remember the actors in adverts. Sometimes they’re already familiar faces, but more often than not seeing them on screen during the ad breaks is the first time we meet them.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what happened to the beloved star of a TV advert or pondering whether you’ve seen them in anything since, this roundup is for you.
Accrington Stanley milk advert, 1989
While Accrington Stanley is one of the most well-known names in the football league, the club earnt household name recognition nationwide off the back of the classic 1908s’ milk advert. The ad sees two young boys return home after football training, desperate for a drink. One asks for lemonade, while the other reaches into the fridge and produces a glass milk bottle.
While he’s met with “Milk?! Ugh!” from his pal, our hero proudly explains that Ian Rush says that if he drinks enough milk he could play for Accrington Stanley (currently sitting proudly in League Two and unlikely to make starring appearances in any football adverts anytime soon). In any case, the second boy utters the now iconic line “Accrington Stanley? Who are they?”.
Cut to the present day, and Carl Rice who played the milk drinker has gone on to have a fairly successful career. Rice has appeared in a range of British TV shows including Brookside, Holby City and Casualty.
In a very different story, the second boy – whose face we never see onscreen – hasn’t quite achieved the same levels of success, and is unfortunately more infamous than famous. Kevin Spaine, deliverer of the famous line, was jailed with a life sentence for murder in 2023.
Dr Pepper “What’s the worst that could happen”, 1999
While Dr Pepper ads might not be quite as famous as rival Coca Cola’s, their 1999 effort is certainly memorable. The advert shows a young man wandering the drinks aisle of a supermarket and choosing a Dr Pepper. “Dr Pepper… what’s the worst that could happen?” he asks as he grabs a can.
As he closes the fridge he accidentally shatters the glass door, causing mountains of merchandise to fall on top of him, burying him. Emergency services are soon called, and for inexplicable reasons the young man has to be cut out of his underwear to be rescued – in front of a huge crowd of giggling women and national news cameras.
Celebrity TV adverts are always memorable, and this one stars a face that’s no doubt familiar to most. The young man is played by Jesse Eisenberg, who went on to star in films including Zombieland and The Social Network – the latter earning him an Oscar nomination.
Nescafe Gold Blend couple, 1987
The main characters in a series of TV adverts that ran between 1987 and 1993, Nescafe’s Gold Blend couple are memorable to this day. The ad campaign was particularly popular thanks to its storyline with cliffhangers, and has been named on several ‘best ever TV ads’ campaigns and is considered one of the best examples of serialised advertising.
Though there were later series with different couples, the original pair are remembered the best, and were played by Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan. The ads were so popular the actors even remade the series for US television, complete with American accents!
Both halves of the couple are successful actors in real life. Sharon Maughan is an established name in theatre and television, with onscreen credits including Inspector Morse, Murder, She Wrote, and Holby City. Anthony Head is also a successful thespian on stage and screen – his credits include The Rocky Horror Show in the West End and a range of television credits you probably recognise him from – including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Motherland and Ted Lasso.
Hovis “The Bike Ride”, 1973
You know an advert is beloved when it’s digitally remastered almost 50 years after it aired. The classic Hovis advert showed a young delivery boy pushing a bike up the hill to deliver fresh loaves, and was voted the UK’s favourite advert.
The ‘boy on the bike’ was played by Carl Barlow. After the advert, Barlow decided he didn’t want to pursue acting and trained as a blacksmith before turning instead to firefighting. Following a long and successful career, Barlow was even given a long-service award by the London fire service. He also returned to the location of the advert – Gold Hill in Dorset – in 2017 to conquer the incline on an electric bike.
Behind the camera, the advert was made by Sir Ridley Scott – the revered director of films including Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator.
Oxo “OXO Family”, 1980s-1990s
Running for over a decade, The Oxo Family were a stalwart of British TV adverts. The series followed a normal family through their lives, through a remarkable series of 42 adverts that aired until 1999. Though the family were united onscreen, the cast behind the characters went on to have very different lives afterwards.
The ads starred actress Lynda Bellingham OBE as the matriarch of the family. Bellingham became a household name for appearances on All Creatures Great and Small, Doctor Who and Loose Women. Bellingham sadly died of cancer in 2014. The Oxo dad was played by Michael Redfern, who made several television appearances in things including The Two Ronnies and EastEnders and later moved to Spain, where he died in 2022.
Of the Oxo children, only the eldest Blair McKichan remained in show business, becoming a songwriter for the likes of Lily Allen and Paloma Faith. Colin McCoy, who played the middle son, moved into a career in quality assurance, while Alison Reynolds – the Oxo daughter – worked in a pharmacy.
Which other famous faces do you remember from ads over the years?