Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Its A Weetabix, Weetabix, Weetabix, Weetabix World

You can just imagine the scene. An office somewhere in England waiting for a representative from Trevor Beattie, one of the UK's leading advertising agencies, who plan to revolutionise the way their breakfast based product is marketed in these all new funky 1980s.

"Hello there. I'm Ian Weetabix. What have you got for us here at Weetabix Ltd, trading under the name Weetabix Food Company and commonly referred to as simply Weetabix?"

"Right, well you know these Weetabix right?"

"I am familiar with our leading, and possibly at this time only, product, yes."

"Well we thought your product would be best promoted by turning some Weetabix...bars?"

"They are probably called that yes. I am not prepared to check."

"OK, well we thought we'd take those and make them into football hooligans and skinheads."

"Excellent. I concieve no problems with this whatsoever. Will there be a girl one?"

"Yes. And a brainy one. He's called Brains."


And so it came to pass that the decade would be dominated by threatening pieces of cereal (initially with the growling faux-East End pipes of Bob Hoskins and later replaced by the no less terrifying Christopher Ellison, better known as Burnside from The Bill) shouting at "titchy breakfasts" and suggesting people instead eat them "If you know what's good for you". It was an incredibly strange angle to take, even with the jaunty sax music and the comic relief character saying "OK!", when the adverts launched in early 1982 but there's no mistaking the popularity of Dunk, Crunch, Brains, Brian and Bixie with kids as they continued to be associated with the advertising right up until 1989.

Assuming you remembered to put the tokens in the envelope, there were countless giveaways and Weetabix would regularly end up chasing every trend going with cassette tapes, break dancing badges, Choose Your Own Adventure books, pop stickers endorsed by 'allowed racist' Mike Read and even a Space Invaders-knock off computer game - "Weetabix Versus The Titchies" - which tied in with a contest to win (read: empty the mounting stockrooms of unsold machines) Atari and Dragon 64 computers. Less exciting but presumably popular with frugal, well-meaning parents was 1988's "Weetabix Wonderworld Atlas" in which the bovver booted biscuit breakfasts explored the globe whilst providing a fun and easy to navigate guide book for the young in these new enlightened post-Girls On Top times...

Yeah, okay so maybe the "don't dress like National stereotypes" messaged hadn't quite reached Weetyworld or wherever the frig they supposedly lived. If only we had a detailed guide to where each character lived...

Glad they got the church on there because I'm sure it was very important to the Weety crew who'd pop along every Sunday to be told they needed to fill up on Jesus is they knew what was good for them by a shouting wheat-based priest. It was quite a neat (wheat) way of explaining map references to a younger audience and not being stuffy like those regular other old atlases was clearly on the minds of the team putting it together. 

Look at the colourful wheat-based man! Compasses are in fact cool and not square and boring like you thought, right!!!?!? This funky artwork representing the gang in their late 80s fashions (the hooligan element now completely eliminated from the advertising) is still a joy to see, cultural insensitivity not withstanding, and its hardly ever heavy-handed in reminding you what product brought you this amazing offer with just 8 tokens...

...Okay, make that 'almost never'. Check out that top on Bixie though, ooft. Strap just slipping off the shoulder like that. IT SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED. Although compared to what she wears later in the book, this is clearly the better option of the bunch. 

Yes, its authentic and beautifully drawn but did we need the eyes really? Glad they copyrighted that shit anyway. 

Moving onto the maps themselves and they're incredibly well done, easy to follow and timeless in a way which saw this book a constant presence on my shelf for going on the whole of the decade to follow. I mean, why would I replace it? What could possibly date in an atlas!?!?!

Disneyland....Narnia... Its a strange thing to look at countries that simply aren't countries anymore, either through breaking down barriers or unpleasant civil war and genocide. Indeed, it must be hard for a kid to imagine there was a time really not so long ago where Germany was divided by an actual guard-protected wall as was the truth when I was growing up. I remember the celebrations when the wall came down although being nine I couldn't really understand the ramifications it brought. Or the endless footage of David Hasselhoff singing horribly in a keyboard tie that would follow. 

But the times were indeed changing and where once was a football scarf and braces was now crayons and a salmon polo shirt...

Questionable style choices aside, I loved the Weetabix Worldwide Atlas (hence it still being in my house today) and if I ever get on Pointless, I will be studying its pages hard for obscure flags and countries that end in "P", "I" and "S". The following year brought a follow up book - "The Weetabix Illustrated British History Book" - done in much the same style although for some reason I never got that one. Perhaps I had moved on, both in life and cereal, little suspecting that 1989 would be the last year these Titchy-bashing totems of the times were seen on television, giving way the following decade to the still often used “Have you had your Weetabix?" catchphrase. 

Vale Dunk, Crunch, Brains, Brian and Bixie. Remember them this way. 

This article is dedicated to Ian "Dunk" Dunkelfaffer, 1982 - 2014. 
"One of God's better wheat based advertising spokesmen"

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