Old Masters II
Cadbury, like Guinness, Maxell Tapes, and Hamlet Cigars, have had some of the finest of all TV ads. The Smash Martians. How Do You Eat Yours? Gorilla plays drums. Girl eats Flake in highly suggestive manner. And, of course, the Milk Tray Man.
He first appeared in 1968 and last graced our screens in 2000. In his most recognisable form he was played by the Australian Gary Myers, the original Milk Tray Man from 1968 until 1984.
Over the years he leapt onto speeding trains, jumped downed bridges in his E-Type, outskied an avalanche, swam castle moats, drove his speedboat over a waterfall, hung from a cable car and dived into shark-infested waters armed with a knife between his teeth.
All to deliver a box of Milk Tray and a card embossed with his silhouette to his lady. There’s a full list of the ads here.
There’s so much to like and admire about the ads: a recognisable and memorable character, interesting visuals, arresting music, and a brilliant tagline.
The music was by composer Cliff Adams and entitled The Night Rider, the locations included exotic sites like Neuschwanstein, the cerulean waters off Gozo and Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, whilst the stunts were performed by the same guys who did the Bond films.
The creatives behind the series were from the agency Leo Burnett. The art director Norman Icke also did the Flake and Creme Egg ads, whilst the copywriter was Bob Stanners.
It was he who came up with the immortal line: ‘And all because the lady loves Milk Tray’ – which for fans of prosody is an iambic pentameter packed with alliteration and assonance and heavy stress at the end on Milk Tray. Which is a convoluted way of saying it just feels right.
The positioning is perfect too. Milk Tray: the chocolates to buy for men looking to indulge and impress their girlfriend or wife. And they’re the chocolates a certain type of man would choose – the Milk Tray Man, a smouldering, mysterious, dashing blend of Bond, Byron and Darcy in one.
Like The Economist ad there’s an implicit question in there: what sort of man are you? And since every man is a little boy at heart and never quite outgrows his vision of himself as Action Man he goes out and buys a box of Milk Tray.
That’s the brilliant thing about the ads. They manage to sail close to being silly and preposterous, whilst also tapping into that bit of the male psyche that is forever seven years old.
The Milk Tray Man entered popular culture. He featured on board games and was parodied by comedians like Spike Milligan. But by the end the ads became anaemic and dull.
Polo necks and death-defying stunts looked a little out of place in the era of Cool Britannia and the New Age Man of the new millennium.
Out went the machismo; in came more winsome-looking actors in lounge suits like mild-mannered off-duty management trainees in need of a copy of The Economist.