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First TV Adverts in the UK

Where did it all begin? We take a look at the first-ever television adverts to broadcast on UK televisions, and how they compare to the adverts we see today.


The First TV Advert in the UK

The first television advert was for Gibbs SR toothpaste. It was broadcast on the 22nd September 1955, which coincided with the first broadcast of ITV. This advert is a lot longer than most adverts broadcast recently, at around one minute long. It’s black and white, and mainly contains scenes which could be repurposed for newspaper or magazine advertisements. 

The fact that this advert was shown first was purely by chance, Unilever, the owner of this particular brand, had booked multiple slots in the hope of appearing on the first day of ITV’s broadcast. The specific times couldn’t be chosen, so the order of advertisements were randomised.

What impact did the first TV advert have on sales? According to Brian Palmer, the narrator for the advertisement, because many people didn’t have ITV, nor a television set, the impact on sales was positive, but not as substantial as you’d expect for TV advertisements shown today.

Watching the advert today is a little surreal, as previously mentioned it’s in black and white, and exceptionally grainy. At first, I thought I was watching an image of pipes covered in limescale, but it’s actually a snowy landscape. The ice filmed on the set was actually made out of plastic, due to the camera lighting causing the ice to melt quickly. Something that’s definitely different back then is how we brushed our teeth, seriously, just watch how she does it! Despite there being around a 65-year difference, the way in which toothpaste is advertised today is quite similar. Show an attractive person brushing their teeth, name a scientific-sounding ingredient, and ensure you mention that it’s backed up by years of research.



First Colour TV Advert in the UK

The first colour tv advert in the UK was to promote Bird’s Eye Peas. It was broadcast on the 15th November 1969. It features a young girl picking peas in a field. This advert’s message is that birds eye carefully grows and picks their peas at the point where they’re at their smallest and sweetest. Rumour has it that this particular advert slot was bought for £23. 

The first colour TV advert is often confused with the start of the Bird’s eye pop campaign, featuring a young Patsy Kensit, now more commonly known as a former band member and actress on Emmerdale. This advert was actually first broadcast in 1973, when Patsy was four.

Do you have any fond memories of the first TV adverts you watched? Let us know in the comments!

6 thoughts on “First TV Adverts in the UK

  1. Great site👍 quick question was Bad Companies Straight Shooter album the first Album to be advertised on UK TV? Way back in 1973 I think?

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