Thursday, 9 May 2019

Bovril – British to the Backbone

This is a second selection of vintage advertising and publicity for Bovril and includes something from every decade between 1900 and the 1950s. To see a selection posted in 2007 please follow this link. Our survey begins in 1909 with a postcard from the The Imperial International Exhibition. It shows Bovril flying the flag for empire from the battlements of the Bovril Castle. Three Highland cattle are posed in the first floor window apertures under the well-worn slogan: “We hear they want more”. When Britain went to war, Bovril stood ready to play its part. In 1917 the company produced a booklet for distribution to the troops in the field in the form of a War Diary. Inside was a list of day by day events in the war from 1914 to 1916 and several pages listing Ranks, Badges, Medals and Decorations. The bovine theme, with its handy associations with strength and virility, remained popular and served with distinction in the Second World War. Pyjama Man, star of the “Sinking Feeling” ads was another regular and turns up here, escaping the unwanted attentions of a furious beast. A sober realism prevailed in the late 1940s, being succeeded by a typical example of 1950s whimsy, where the sacrificial ox has been embedded in a stained glass window, accompanied by some lazy doggerel. S H Benson, the advertising agency for Bovril throughout these years, was notorious for providing a refuge for self-indulgent, tweedy, pipe-smoking copywriters, happily engaged in turning out bad verse by the yard. In their off-duty hours they would busy themselves writing thrillers and mysteries involving white slavers, debutantes with a taste for the demi-monde and sinister Orientals. It’s impressive how this unprepossessing product has survived for almost 150 years. Whether it lasts much longer is a matter for conjecture – it could be that the last Bovril consumer on Earth has already been born.

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