1900 - Coca-Cola is introduced to the UK by Charles Howard Candler,
the son of the company’s founder.
1901 - Heinz Baked Beans are introduced to the UK. By 1905, they are
proving so popular the company opens its first UK factory in
1905 - Bibendum, the Michelin Man, comes to the UK as the French tyre
manufacturer opens a trading office in London.
1908 - Henry Ford opens the way for mass production cars as his Model T
starts rolling off the production lines.
1909 - Housewives in the UK are offered an alternative to detergent bar
soap for the first time, courtesy of the ’Amazing Oxygen Washer’:
Lever Brothers acquired the brand in 1919.
1919 - Thomas Cook & Son becomes the first travel agent to offer
pleasure trips by air.
1920 - Frank Smith opens his first business from a North London garage
distributing thinly sliced, fried bits of potato. He quickly discovers
consumers like salt with them and so adds a twist in blue paper in the
bags. The British begin their love affair with crisps.
1922 - W.K. Kellogg is renamed the Kellogg Company and expands
internationally as sales begin in the UK. It’s not until 1958 that
Cornelius, the rooster, makes his debut on Corn Flakes.
1928 - Marks & Spencer registers the St Michael trademark. Two years
later, it opens its flagship Marble Arch store in London.
1931 - the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) comes to the UK.
1933 - Mars Bars hit the nation’s sweet shops.
1934 - Guinness begins its long history of positioning itself as a drink
that’s good for you with a poster campaign using the slogan ’For
Strength’ and showing a construction worker carrying an iron girder. Ads
featuring John Gilroy’s famous illustrations, which include the toucan,
run for more than 30 years.
1935 - Rowntree launches Chocolate Crisp in London and the South
Two years later it is renamed Kit-Kat.
1936 - BBC begins broadcasting. It broadcasts to 400 homes in the London
area from Alexandra Palace.
1930s - The ABC1 social classification system is conceived although it
doesn’t come to prominence until the 1950s when it is introduced by
Research Services (RSL) for use in the National Readership Survey.
1940 - ’Careless Talk Costs Lives’ declares the Ministry of War’s poster
during the Second World War. It is one of the most memorable of a series
of propaganda posters used during the conflict.
1942 - Soft toilet tissue is welcomed by the sore-bottomed British with
the launch of Andrex. By 1961 it is market leader. The Andrex puppy,
created by JWT, doesn’t make its debut until 1972.
1953 - Food rationing comes to an end in the UK, opening the way for
food manufacturers to advertise in earnest.
1953 - Procter & Gamble launches its Daz brand.
1955 - Independent television begins. The inaugural broadcast is from
the Guildhall in London.
1955 - First commercial break. Break occurs during Variety, a
star-packed programme from the Guildhall, which begins at 8pm. Gibbs SR
toothpaste is the first TV commercial and Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate
1955 - Marlboro launches its cigarettes into the UK market, with its
repositioned brand using the Marlboro Man in its advertising.
1956 - The tea-drinking chimps hit our small screens, promoting Brooke
Bond’s PG Tips. They go on to feature in more than 100 TV
1950 - Strand launches its TV ad campaign with the strapline ’You’re
never alone with a Strand’. Despite being one of the best-remembered
cigarette ads, the campaign was the death knell for the brand. The
association with sad loners failed to build the brand and it soon
1959 - Elliot and Ruth Handler, founders of Mattel, launch their
well-endowed doll: Barbie. She gets a boy-friend two years later called
1959 - The Mini hits the roads, designed to be an easier alternative to
the motorbike and sidecar.
1960s - Arpanet, which many claim is the start of the internet, is
introduced during the Cold War by the US military as a way of
communicating in case of war.
1960 - P&G extends its soap brand into the washing-up liquid market with
1962 - The inaugural meeting of the Advertising Standards Authority
takes place with Sir Arnold Plant as its chairman.
1964 - BBC2 begins broadcasting.
1965 - Mary Quant designs the mini skirt, which becomes an enduring
fashion icon and the definer of fashion for the masses and 1960s
1965 - Cigarette advertising on TV is banned in the UK.
1966 - The Times puts news on its front page for the first time.
1967 - Barclays Bank in Enfield knocks a hole in its wall and the public
are presented with their first chance to withdraw cash 24 hours a day.
Personal banking is revolutionised and today there are more than 600,000
ATMs around the world.
1967 - First colour television transmission begins with a limited
By November 1967, 11 hours a week of colour television are being
broadcast on BBC2.
1967 - Radio One, Radio Two and Radio Four are all launched.
1969 - The first transmission of data from one computer to another takes
place between two Californian universities. The transmission consists of
only two letters - L and O - but it is another landmark in the
development of the web.
1969 - First colour television commercial. Ad is for Birds Eye Peas and
broadcast on ATV in the Midlands area. The break occurs during
1969 - Rupert Murdoch buys the struggling Sun newspaper (circulation
800,000 compared with over four million for The Mirror) for pounds
1971 - The first microprocessor chip, the 4-bit 4004 is released by
1972 - UK women get their first taste of Cosmopolitan as the successful
US magazine turns its attentions to British women.
1972 - Phil Knight changes the name of his company from Blue Ribbon
Sports to Nike and introduces the ’swoosh’ logo.
1972 - People are entertained with the first video game, Pong, created
1973 - Richard Branson and Simon Drapper set up a small mail-order music
operation, the first incarnation of the Virgin brand. It goes on to
become the largest independent UK record company before being sold to
Thorn EMI in 1992.
1973 - Commercial radio launches. First radio advertisement airs on LBC
for Birds Eye.
1974 - McDonald’s opens its first UK restaurant in Woolwich. By 1999 it
has 1000 restaurants in this country.
1977 - CDP’s Benson & Hedges ’gold’ campaign launches, heralding a new
era for UK advertising. Blatant plugging of products is out, in favour
of a more subtle style of advertising.
1977 - Apple Computer starts the personal computer revolution with the
launch of its Apple II.
1978 - Saatchi & Saatchi’s poster depicting a long queue outside a job
centre, with the line ’Labour isn’t working’, is instrumental in the
downfall of Callaghan’s Labour government, opening the way for Margaret
Thatcher’s victory in 1979.
1978 - The Sun passes the four million circulation hurdle, making it the
best-selling newspaper in the UK.
1980 - IBM chooses Microsoft to write the operating system for its new
computers and the modern PC era dawns. Other PC makers want to be
compatible with IBM so MS-DOS becomes standard.
1980 - Sony’s Walkman is the essential item for every young hip thing,
despite Sony dealers’ initial reservations about its potential
Sony uses very effective PR to win publicity. Within two years, it has
sold more than 1.5 million units.
1982 - Channel 4 goes on air.
1983 - Breakfast TV launches as BBC Breakfast Time.
1984 - Richard Branson starts Virgin Atlantic Airways, positioning it as
an airline offering better service at more competitive prices.
1984 - British Telecom is privatised in what is claimed to be the
largest flotation in the world. Dewe Rogerson and Dorlands handle the
1985 - Mobile telephony hits the UK with Racal/Vodafone and Cellnet
enjoying a duopoly. By September 25,000 phones have been sold and the
operators are struggling to keep up with supply.
1985 - Direct Line opens its phone lines in the UK with backing from the
Royal Bank of Scotland. The red telephone doesn’t appear in TV ads until
the late 1980s.
1985 - The Mailing Preference Service is formed, marking the first
self-regulation for direct marketing.
1985 - Robert Maxwell buys Mirror Group Newspapers from Reed
He continues to build his media empire until his death in November
1985 - A Saatchi & Saatchi advertising executive, Martin Sorrell, leads
a team of investors to buy Wire and Plastic Products, the maker of
grocery baskets since 1958. He shortens the name to WPP and goes on an
ad agency buying spree. WPP now has more than 950 offices in 90
1985 - Nick Kamen strips off his jeans to the sound of Marvin Gaye’s I
Heard it Through the Grapevine’ and Levi’s fortunes flourish with an
800% sales hike. Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s retro 50s-style ads mean 501s
are the fashion item to be seen in.
1985 - Coca-Cola scores a huge own goal when it changes the formulation
of its soft drink. The ensuing public outcry means it has to reintroduce
the original recipe under the brand Coca-Cola Classic.
1986 - Eddy Shah prints the first colour newspaper in the UK. The
tabloid newspaper is aimed squarely at the middle ground. It is sold
twice before finally closing in November 1995 with a circulation of
about half a million.
1986 - British Gas is privatised and the utility’s share sale is
promoted with Young & Rubicam’s ’Tell Sid’ campaign.
1986 - British Airways, ’ The World’s Favourite Airline’, is privatised
and the flotation is 11 times oversubscribed. Ten years on BA is
struggling with an unpopular new corporate identity, cabin crew strikes
and diminishing profits.
1989 - Sky Television launches via the Astra satellite with a
four-channel network. By 1990 it is on the verge of bankruptcy but in
November of that year it merges with British Satellite Broadcasting to
1989 - The launch of First Direct, the first 24-hour, branchless
By the end of 1997, it has 800,000 customers and all the high street
banks have introduced telephone banking services.
1989 - Tim Berners-Lee creates the worldwide web at CERN, the European
Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva.
1991 - Gerald Ratner learns the hard way to keep his mouth shut when his
remarks to the Institute of Directors, that his 240-strong jewellery
chain sells goods that are ’crap’, result in a nose-dive in sales. By
1994 the Ratners name has disappeared from the high street.
1991 - The first internet browser is introduced.
1992 - Disneyland Paris opens. Despite French concern over possible
effects of the park on French culture, by the mid-1990s it is France’s
biggest tourist attraction.
1992 - BSkyB pays pounds 304m for Premier League football rights.
1992 - Hoover runs one of the most ill-fated promotions of all time when
it offers two free flights to the US for anyone buying a Hoover product
worth more than pounds 100. The sums don’t add up and Hoover is
1993 - The first measurement of DRTV takes place and accounts for 13% of
1994 - Lads’ culture takes off in the UK as Loaded hits the shelves.
1994 - Lever Brothers launches its most innovative product to date:
Persil Power. Ten months on, its chairman Sir Michael Perry admits it is
’the biggest marketing setback in the company’s history’, as the product
is found to rot some clothes. The Power sub-brand disappears but the
Persil brand survives and grows in strength with the launch of tablets
in April 1998.
1994 - Littlewoods pays out pounds 14m for a three-year sponsorship deal
of the FA Cup, the first sponsorship in over 120 years of FA Cup
1994 - The UK’s first national lottery, run by Camelot, launches with
the end line ’It Could be You’.
1994 - Orange enters the mobile phone market with a branding campaign
created by WCRS. ’The future’s bright, the future’s Orange’ and images
of the swimming baby are soon ingrained on people’s minds.
1994 - Yahoo launches. Today it claims 33 million visitors each
1994 - Jeff Bezos founds Amazon. com, although the site doesn’t go live
until July 1995. It goes on to become the standard-bearer for all new
1995 - Tesco becomes the first supermarket to launch a loyalty card
scheme. Fourteen million people now hold Tesco Clubcards.
1995 - A record number of complaints are made to the ASA regarding an ad
for the British Safety Council, which features the Pope and promoted
condom use. The ASA received 1192 complaints from the PR around the ad,
which never actually ran.
1995 - Alcohol takes on a whole new guise with the introduction of
Hooper’s Hooch which spawns a new market sector. Alcopops become an
immediate, although somewhat short-lived, success. Campaigners denounce
them for encouraging underage drinking.
1995 - News leaks that Guinness is planning a TV ad that features a gay
couple kissing. The furore around the leak means the ad never runs, but
it does signify the start of a more liberal approach to gay images in
1995 - Coca-Cola’s contour bottle becomes the first 3-D depiction of a
trademark to be registered in the UK.
1995 - Calvin Klein shakes up the fragrance market with the first unisex
scent, CK One.
1995 - Greek Cypriot shipowner Stelios Haji-Ioannou launches his
low-budget airline, EasyJet.
1995 - Sony enters the computer games market with its PlayStation
With massive marketing support, it goes on to annihilate main rival Sega
and declares that its ambition is to make gaming a mass market
1996 - Pepsi turns its cans blue in a bid to differentiate itself from
the red liveries of other colas. It commits pounds 200m to the global
roll-out programme and PR stunts in the UK include turning Concorde and
The Mirror blue. Two years on, the majority of European countries are
still selling red Pepsi cans and the blue escapade is featuring in the
’top ten’ of marketing mistakes.
1996 - Sainsbury’s links up with the Royal Bank of Scotland to become
the first supermarket to launch a full-blown banking service. So begins
the race by all the stores to move into financial services. Tesco dips
its toe in the water with a debit card in June of this year.
1996 - Cadbury signs the biggest TV sponsorship deal, paying pounds 10m
to link its brands to Coronation Street.
1997 - The government and the Millennium Commission agree on the budget
for the Dome, which requires pounds 150m worth of commercial
sponsorship. Its marketing budget is set at pounds 29m.
1997 - Channel 5, the fifth commercial terrestrial TV channel, goes on
air in the UK.
1998 - P&G introduces Sunny Delight fruit drink in the UK. It becomes
the most successful grocery launch of the decade, with sales soaring
5224% to almost pounds 160m after only a year. It is the 12th
biggest-selling brand in the UK by 1999.
1998 - The government agrees to enact the European Union’s ban on
tobacco advertising. The timetable means posters will be banned by June
2000, press ads the following year and sponsorship by 2003.
1998 - The launch of Freeserve internet service provider offers
consumers free internet access. Dixons floats the company in July
1998 - BSkyB launches SkyDigital.
It offers 140 channels and sets a target of six million subscribers by
2003. ONdigital, the terrestrial version, launches the following
1999 - The ASA publishes the new edition of its codes in October, making
political advertising exempt.