My Favourite Five Ads: Stephen Woodford

The future's bright, the future's...? To celebrate the IPA's centenary this year, we are asking adland's finest to pick their top five ads from the past century. This week, Stephen Woodford, CEO at Advertising Association, makes his selection.

Volkswagen, The green fender came off a ‘58’


My first car was a ’66 Beetle, cost £50 and had done 180,000 hard miles. Where it wasn’t dented, it was rusty. I loved it and gradually replaced the dinged wings, boot and bonnet with parts from scrapyards, ending up with a car not far off this ad. I also bought the book ‘Remember all those great VW ads’ as part of my love for all things Beetle. It was probably this book and the next ad I’ve chosen that made me want to work in advertising.

Jumping forward 30 years to when I joined DDB, I found that VW’s unparalleled creative legacy was still driving the client and agency team to produce brilliant work in the UK and around the world. Judgement, rather than research, was the way most choices were made and VW is the most creatively-awarded brand in the history of advertising, as well as the world’s No. 1 manufacturer. Which may not be a coincidence.

Parker Pens, Rediscover the lost art of the insult


My favourite ever press ad. I was about 19 or 20 when I saw this and I loved it, for its wit, art direction and fantastic writing, especially the glossary of insulting terms in the panel at the bottom right. One of many great Parker ads, from CDP legends Neil Godfrey and Tony Brignull that are all available at the History of Advertising Trust. Make browsing the HAT site a regular habit (to declare an interest, I am a HAT trustee).

The Economist, I never read the Economist. Management trainee. Aged 42


Like VW, understated intelligence, insight and tone that has stood the test of time and driven great commercial success, created by another advertising legend, David Abbott and his agency, AMV.  When I worked at WCRS on Carling Black Label, spoofing other ads and genres was part of the campaign’s success (see below) AMV and the Economist let us run ‘I always drink Carling Black Label. CEO aged 24’ alongside this poster, on one site in Fulham Palace Road. The spoof was entered for creative awards, with some modest success, such was the fame and quality of the original idea. The Economist’s commercial as well as creative acumen is such that you can buy a limited edition print of the original ad for a mere £91.66 on their website. The Carling edition is not for sale…

Carling Black Label, Dambusters

carling black label

This time Carling’s target was classic British war movies, with the German the unlikely hero, earning the ‘I bet he drinks…’ accolade by saving the dam with some nifty goalkeeping. WCRS at the time was perilously close to being fired after a creatively fallow period. This ad saved our bacon. Those old enough will remember the director Roger Woodburn and his ingenious production company Park Village. They made this epic on a tight budget, long before computers made special effects routine. The bouncing bombs were recreated by firing cricket balls down 50 yards of salt-covered black rubber, the Lancaster cockpit was found on an aircraft collector’s drive and the rest was done with models and the locations in Wales where the original film was shot.

One of the British public’s all-time favourite ads, and a multi-award winner, including a rare D&AD Black Pencil for Roger Woodburn. Classic British creativity and ingenuity, which would have made Barnes Wallis proud. Or perhaps not, as it’s only a lager.

Orange, Launch TV

 orange launch tv

Another WCRS classic, this ad launched the ground-breaking brand campaign that took Orange from No. 4 in the market to No.1 in a few short years. Larry Barker and Rooney Carruthers were the joint Creative Directors and their visionary script, culminating in Larry’s wonderful line “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange’, foretold the wireless world we now take for granted. Rooney’s sound and vision genius chose Philip Glass for the minimalist music and Frank Budgen to make the film.

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.

If you are interested in submitting your favourite five ads for our blog series, please email

Last updated 21 January 2022