It’s a remarkable 30 years since one of the most charming and best loved television adverts was first shown on TV.

First shown on the 25th September 1983, this advert would change how people looked at the product it advertised, and secure the reputation of the firm that created it.

A gentle background piano tinkle, an almost instagram’d vintage colour scheme, and a retired author trying to reclaim a lost moment as he hunts down a copy of the book he wrote.

We are never told how or why the author has lost the last remaining copy of his book, but the thankful clasp of the telephone at the end tells us all how relieved he is to have solved a long quest.

Yes, it’s an advert, for a printed list of adverts within its famous yellow covers that remarkably still seems to be around, even if feats of strength in tearing it’s shrunken tome half would seem anachronistic today.

And amazingly, an advert for a book that can help you find a bookshop spawned an actual book featured in the advert — and thus Fly Fishing by J.R. Hartley was a curious best seller. Its soft reminiscences about an earlier life in Yorkshire perfectly evocative of the charm of the TV advert that inspired it.

The singer turned actor, Norman Lumsden sadly died in 2001. In a remarkable twist of fate, one of his early jobs was working as a book designer.

It was in his acting role of a book author that he was to secure his greatest fame though. He earned around £100,000 in repeat fees from the advert, and eventually took up fly fishing as a result.

Like most things we love, there was an attempt to update the advert a few years ago. The less said about that the better. Yes?

Amusingly, the advert overlaid on the YouTube clip above is often for the very thing that is killing Yellow Pages — a Google search.


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  1. Ayla says:

    Oh that made me feel very wistful for bygones … I’m sure there’s a shot of one of those old Charing Cross secondhand bookshops I seemed to spend my younger years in, now gone.

  2. Kit Green says:

    Good grief , am I that old! This commercial came through the video company I worked for from 1979…….

  3. J S Hartley says:

    … and I still get the remark, “… not J R Hartley then…”

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