My Favourite Five Ads: Stephen Roycroft

To celebrate the IPA's centenary this year, we are asking adland's finest to pick their top five ads from the past century. Alive for over half of the IPA's 100 years Stephen Roycroft, IPA Northern Ireland Chairman and Managing Director, RLA Ireland shares the five ads that taught him how to pursue greater effectiveness throughout the 25 years he’s been learning the game.

Readybrek, Central heating for kids


Because no it’s not, it’s an oats based breakfast cereal. And that’s why I chose this advertisement because of what it taught me - that advertising can sell by offering reassurance, it can assuage guilt and reaffirm what people would like to believe about themselves. In this case, you’re a good mum and now that everyone else’s kids are shivering off to school, yours aren’t…because you fed them Readybrek. Emotion warms the heart with some rational food for thought.

Head and shoulders, I didn’t know you had dandruff…


…they don’t. And they can hold their heads high with a brand that shouts that they observe a fundamental hygienic regimen by using Head and Shoulders. A pre-emptive strike; not a treatment. This was the first time I had noted an advertisement reverse the inference of a brand’s use – now “ because I use Head and Shoulders, I never had or have Dandruff”. Two heads are better than one – those with dandruff who no longer have to admit that they have it, and those who fear dandruff no longer inferring that they have it. Similarly Lucozade over the years has toned up from a brand for sick people, to a brand for healthy people while never losing sight of a brand promise that Lucozade makes you better.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Writing on the Wall


A shameless outing for one of my own most important pieces when at my last agency, Ardmore. Relentless pursuit of insight showed that people die in house-fires from smoke, not flames. They thrash in blinding, choking smoke until they find a wall and leave prints as the last mark they ever make. Most people who maintain fire-safe routines are not those who die and they have a responsibility to those in their care. This IPA Effectiveness award-winning campaign dealt the guilt card before an avoidable, fatal event. This prompted action in those who had a responsibility to others, not themselves; just by posing the last words that victim would have ever said to them. The campaign resulted in Northern Ireland boasting the lowest per-capita fire death rate in the world. Now that is responsible advertising and leaves a clear message that effective public safety advertising should not be buried in the regions.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Nobody grows ketchup like Heinz


Every time a brainstorming session starts spurting longwinded complex narratives as “ ideas”, or advertising that a bus passenger would have to alight and devour for hours to digest... I say stop. Can we tell our story in a split second? Can we leave people with knowledge and trust in a single squeeze? I learnt it could in the timeless truth served in an instant by Heinz - that their ketchup comprises real tomatoes. And few ads achieve it as tastefully as this.

The Economist, "I never read the Economist"


I needn’t spend time extolling the merits of the enduring The Economist advertising and the aspirant rapport it builds with its readers – certainly not before this informed audience. Why I selected this particular execution was the perfection of a device to consolidate the reader’s self belief, while nipping at their insecurity. The rapport is established by pillorying the mediocre with a declaration that “unsuccessful people, people who aren’t me” do not read or value The Economist, and that the brand is so confident that it headlines with that. A joke - and a truth - to be shared with successful people, just like me? Aged 52.

The IPA are celebrating their centenary this year - join in the conversation on Twitter using #AdFest100 and #IPA100. You can catch up on all the photos, videos and other content from the IPA's Festival of British advertising here, including Sir Martin Sorrell, Sir Alan Parker and a virtual tour of the Exhibition.

Last updated 21 January 2022