St George (advertisement)
|Agency||HHCL + partners|
|Running time||90 seconds|
|Release date(s)||1 October 1997 (television)|
|Directed by||Colin Gregg|
|Music by||Felix ("Don't You Want Me")|
St George is a multi award winning commercial for the British soft drink, Blackcurrant Tango. The commercial was created by Chas Bayfield and Jim Bolton at the UK advertising agency, HHCL + Partners and was directed by Colin Gregg at the production company, Eclipse, for the client David Atter at Britvic.
The advert only appeared on national television ten times, mostly during the show TFI Friday. It won several major advertising awards in 1998, notably a Cannes Gold Lion and a Silver Pencil from D&AD in London. It has been voted one of the 100 best commercials of all time  and was popular for its latent jingoism and the fact that it appears to have been filmed in one continuous shot.
St George opens with Tango spokesman, Ray Gardner, in his office in the headquarters of Tango. He appears to be doing a corporate video. He has a letter in his hand from a French exchange student, Sebastien, who is critical of new blackcurrant flavoured Tango. Ray walks forward, bumping into the camera before continuing his rant through the office. He is joined by some colleagues who follow him out into the car park where, now in full flow, he begins stripping off. Ray is joined by more staff who help him off with the rest of his clothes, revealing some bright purple boxing shorts under his trousers. Ray and his entourage arrive seamlessly on the White Cliffs of Dover where a flag waving army of supporters have gathered to cheer on their leader. The commercial is now fully widescreen and the action is accompanied by rousing anthemic dance music - "Don't You Want Me" by Felix. As they help him into some purple boxing gloves and place a purple cloak around his shoulders, Ray continues his rant against Sebastien. On the edge of the cliffs is a boxing ring which Ray climbs into, before challenging Sebastian, France, Europe and the world to a fight. In the sky behind him, three Harrier Jump Jets appear and tilt menacingly.
The commercial was originally planned to be only 30 seconds long and was intended to be an attack on Coca Cola. The decision to make it longer came from Tango's desire to surprise its customers and because the only soft drinks brand that could afford to do such a long commercial was Coke. Using so much of the budget on the production (rather than airtime) and only airing it 10 times was a risk that Tango believed was worth taking.
The commercial was filmed in three days in April 1997 by the TV drama director, Colin Gregg. There are several tricks in ‘St George.’ The style moves from corporate video - Ray bumps the camera at the beginning – to epic widescreen when he is running towards the White Cliffs. Ray also moves from a 20th storey office to the ground floor, then to the office car park and the White Cliffs, all apparently in one take. In fact, Ray passes a white wall on leaving his office and his position is matched exactly against a white wall on the ground floor. Similarly, Ray’s position as he passes a Tango truck in the car park had to be replicated exactly to match his actions as he passes the truck on the White Cliffs. Not only that, Ray needed to step out of his trousers, something which needed nearly 30 takes to get right.
The office section was shot in a new high rise development overlooking East Croydon railway station, the car park was in a business park in Welwyn Garden City and the White Cliffs filmed at St Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent. Ray's office and the White Cliffs were filmed first and the car park sequence was shot to link the two together. It didn’t help that on the first two days the weather was fine and on the third, it snowed. Due to health and safety regulations, the crew weren't allowed to use real Harrier jets on the day – the planes were computer generated afterwards by the digital visual effects company, Framestore CFC.
The advertisement won a D&AD "Silver Pencil" design award in May 1998, a Cannes "Gold Lion" in June 1998 and won the Film Four "Best Long Commercial 1956-2001" in June 2007.
The advert itself features numerous Tango branded items, such as the "Tango doll", vending machine, Still Tango poster, Tango door sticker, a Tango Blackcurrant delivery lorry and Tango Blackcurrant flags as well as numerous members of staff from Britvic, the makers of Blackcurrant Tango.
In 1997, Tango started a campaign called 'Vote Orange Tango' which featured Ray Gardner. The advert featured four flavours of Tango competing in an "election". The advert showed a man talking about the four flavours of the drink, and before encouraging the audience 'Vote Orange Tango'. He adds negative remarks about the apple, blackcurrant and lemon flavours, before walking to the top of a building where the character of Ray Gardner (played by a different person) is still shown expressing his anger, before falling, tired, into a puddle. The man criticises "Blackcurrant Tango" as "stinky wind".
Another, loosely related Tango advert shows Ray Gardner advertising a competition to win television sets, sporting the same uniform as in the start of St George and Ray appeared in an advert for Orange Tango encouraging a colleague at an event where clowns were being run over by giant trucks.
- "Blackcurrant Tango 'St. George'". FrameStore-CFC.
- Kanner, Bernice. 100 Best TV Commercials: And Why They Worked. (Times Books, 1999).