You Can be Sure of Shell
Whilst I'm still feeling nostalgic having revisited my childhood 'Wandering Star' obsession, I thought I'd revisit another childhood favourite: the early sixties Shell Petrol ad featuring Bing Crosby. I say featuring Bing Crosby, in reality it is only his voice featured, with an anonymous pipe fondling extra standing in for him behind the wheel of the car. As it's all shot 'point of view', we never see the driver's face, with the aforementioned pipe and the bag of golf clubs in the passenger seat acting as visual cues to identify him as 'Bing'. So the real Bing Crosby didn't have to travel further than his nearest recording studio in the States in order to make his trip around the British Isles. Although first aired in the early sixties, I remember this ad still being run on British TV in the late sixties when I was a kid.
The 'Bing Sings Shell' advert was one of a series which ran on UK TV from the late fifties onward, usually featuring Micheal Holliday's vocals on the 'You Can be Sure of Shell' song. Each one featured a 'point of view' journey in a convertible through various parts of the UK. The Bing version was a one-off special, although I have read that there was another special version featuring Sammy Davis Jr's vocals, which played across Europe, (part of the deal with Crosby, apparently, was that his ad would only be shown in the UK). Unfortunately, I have yet to find a copy of the Sammy Davis version, or even confirm its existence.
The 'You Can be Sure of Shell' series of ads are quite fascinating to view now - they belong to an era when car ownership was still a novelty and most people hadn't traveled that widely in the British Isles, let alone abroad. Hence, these mini-travelogues of Britain were showing many viewers parts of their own country that had never visited. Driving was still an adventure back then. Indeed, back in the late sixties I can remember even the journey from Salisbury to London being a massive trek in those pre-M3 motorway days, when you had to follow the old A3 through what felt like every town centre in the Thames Valley. Which is probably why this advert always appealed to me as a kid - it showed driving as a relaxing, trouble free adventure on empty roads winding through beautiful scenery, rather than a slog through Staines.
I still find it more engaging than most of the ads currently running on UK TV, which all seemed to be aimed at people with no attention spans, garishly shouting out their messages. (I especially dislike those bloody adverts which try to use the 'vlogging' format - clearly some ad executive somewhere has discovered You Tube). It's certainly far more gentell, reflecting an era when the pace of life was commendably far slower.