John Townshend in '3 great ads I had nothing to do with'

A few words about John

John founded the start-up, Now, which has produced campaigns for Habitat, Claims Direct, Florette, Butlins and BT Business in its first year. Now is at number two in the Business League.

He is a copywriter by trade and, previously, was creative partner at Rapier where his work included the launch of Virgin Media with Uma Thurman and Samuel L Jackson. During his twelve years there, Rapier was one of the leading integrated agencies in the UK, winning Campaign's Direct Agency of the Decade, and John helped it grow from 20 to 130 people He has work in D&AD, the Radio Advertising Hall of Fame, and Creative Circle and the Arrows, and has been a judge at the Campaign Big Awards, D&AD and Creative Circle.

More about John's 3 great ad choices

Wall's: Talking Dog

The advertising agency McCann Erickson introduced the Wall’s dog in 1993, motivated by the talking dog from Sunday Night’s TV show ‘That’s Life’. His first ad saw his owner try to teach him to say "sausages", but he only says "Wall’s". The dog is brought back to life by Saatchi & Saatchi in a series of ads that show men expressing their affection to their loved ones through the dog.

The ad was written by Dan Warner and art directed by Andy Vasey and the director was Andy McLeod through Kirsty Dye. The ad won a Gold Award 2012 at the British Arrows.

  • Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Creative: Dan Warner/ Andy Vasey 
  • Production Co: Rattling Stick
  • Director: Andy McLeod

Honda: Impossible Dream

Launched in December 2005, Honda’s two-minute-long Impossible Dream reveals Honda’s corporate philosophy of the power of dreams.

The campaign won ‘Television Advertisement of the Year’ in the British Television Advertising Awards and was directed by Ivan Zacharias and produced by Nick Landon, from the film production company Stink. The commercial was adapted for the England 2006 World Cup football campaign, where the Honda logo was replaced with St George’s flags. The original Wieden+Kennedy campaign, and the England remake, together cost £4.5 million, and came with a making-of version, as well as an extended version that debuted in 2010, featuring a HondaJet aeroplane and hydrogen fuel cell car.

  • Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
  • Creative: Sam Heath/ Chris Groom
  • Production Co: Stink TV
  • Director: Ivan Zacharias

Levi's: Launderette

This 1985 commercial, promoting the re-launch of Levi’s classic 501s shrink-to-fit jeans, was a breakthrough revival for the brand that, at the time, was largely perceived as old-fashioned. John Hegarty and Barbara Nokes, of BBH, recreated a 50s Americana launderette which presented Levi’s 501s as a retro 50s alternative to 80s punk. They used research that young Americans distinguished the fifties as a cool era. The humour and sex appeal of the commercial, where teen idol Nick Kamen strips down to his boxers in front of launderette onlookers, including bewildered older women and enthralled younger girls, caused an increase of 800% in Levi’s sales within a year.

The use of the iconic hit ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ was an early example of effective integrated marketing, sparking the re-release of the original, which entered the charts again, and the 501 logo to appear on the record sleeve.

  • Agency: BBH
  • Creative: Barbara Nokes/ John Hegarty
  • Production Co: Mike Dufficy & Partners
  • Director: Roger Lyons

You might also like

Breaking ads

We update this gallery weekly with a collection of the latest and best ads breaking on TV.


The Thinkboxes Hall of Fame

As we’re in celebratory mood, we thought you might like to see a list of all the Thinkboxes winners since the awards began in 2008: the cream of the crop, if you like. But which brilliant ads have earned your votes over the years?


The best ads from the Super Bowl 2022

The biggest moment in the annual global sports calendar, our gallery showcases the best TV ad creativity from the big day.