Sunday, 18 January 2015

Old Beer Ads #14 - Ruddles (1993)

Believe it or not, there was a time when Ruddles was a highly regarded beer, rather than the go-to cheap filth at Wetherspoons. Even more surprisingly for an independent brewery, they had a TV advertising budget. And if you had such a thing, what better course of action that to give £50,000 of said budget to Vivian Stanshall, ex-leader of the Bonzo Dog Band and notoriously unreliable pisshead.

Stanshall, possibly when a bit more sober, cooked this one up in his flat in Muswell Hill, roughly based on his Rawlinson End work and an old Edward Lear poem you may recognise.  Extravagantly hiring Dawn French to be unreconisably made-up as Sir Henry Rawlinson, it's a perfect example of money-no-object advertising excess.

It kept Stanshall going though. Not a drinker of Real Ale, he spent a large proportion of the money on recordings for Warner Brothers (yet to be released due to rights hell) and vodka.

Unwell with alcoholism and tranquiliser addiction, and indeed only 18 months from death, Stanshall spent a lot of time blotto and as such this as took far longer than normal to get in the can. More money spent. It's possibly an exaggeration that these events made Ruddle vulnerable to the takeover from Greene King a few years later, but it makes you think.

So Viv, it's all your fault. Still, thanks for "The Canyons Of Your Mind".


  1. Actually if you look through the history of Ruddles, it was a lot more complicated than that. In 1993 they were owned by Grolsch, having been in the hands of Watneys/GrandMet from 1986 to 1992. They were later sold to Morland, who closed the Ruddles brewery, before themselves being taken over by Greene King.

  2. It’s a shame that there’s not the version of the ad online in which French is revealed as Sir Henry (or whoever), at least that I’ve been able to locate. I remember trying to deliberately capture the thing on video, only for it not to be on or not having a tape available. That font of all knowledge Wikipedia tells me Mel Smith played the character too. I doubt this, just as I suspect the bearded fellow at the beginning isn’t Viv; still had a soothing voice but as you say, the drink made him hard to work with in the flesh. Were he and Smith in evidence, do you know?