Hovis’ much-loved ‘Boy on the Bike’ advert to return to TV screens tonight

Tonight, Hovis’ iconic 1973 ‘Boy on the Bike’ advert is to make a comeback to television screens across the UK, having been digitally remastered by Ridley Scott Associates and the British Film Institute (BFI) National Archive.

By Stephanie Bateman
Monday, 03 June, 2019, 09:02

The advert is widely regarded as one of the best examples of UK advertising film and helped launch the career of legendary director Sir Ridley Scott. It cemented the image of the boy pushing a bicycle, with a basket of bread, up the steep slope of Gold Hill into the nation’s consciousness.

Gold Hill, in Shaftesbury, Dorset, has now become a tourist destination for fans of the advert, and a recent poll by Kantar saw UK consumers vote ‘Boy on the Bike’ as the most iconic and heart-warming advert of all time.

The iconic boy on the bike advert

Now, after extensive remastering and 4K digital restoration by the BFI National Archive and Ridley Scott Associates, Hovis is bringing the much-loved advert back to the small screen from Monday June 3.

Earlier this year, the 46-year-old ‘Boy on the Bike’ advert was voted the most iconic and heart-warming commercial out of the nation’s top 14 all-time favourites, as voted for by consumers according to research conducted by Kantar1.

Hovis is now introducing the advert to a new generation where the simplicity of the story and its core message of hard-work, family and the strength of community are expected to resonate today as much as they have ever done.

Over 100,000 cinema and television ads, from the iconic to the obscure, are preserved in the BFI’s National Archive. The BFI are making hundreds of these adverts on film accessible to the public online, many for the first time, with a major new digitised collection tracing the history of British screen advertising across the last 100+ years.

A world leader in film restoration, the conservation team has been meticulously remastering a number of adverts for this archive advertising project, including Sir Ridley Scott’s iconic ‘Boy on the Bike’ for Hovis. The 4K digital restoration and remastering has brought the advert back to life after stabilising and colour correcting the image.

The revamp has also involved a re-recording of Dvorak’s New World Symphony by a new generation of the original Ashington Colliery brass band, including the grandson of one of the original brass players.

Set in post-war Britain and directed by screen legend Sir Ridley Scott, the advert takes the viewer up Gold Hill as the boy pushes his bread-delivery bike up the steep slope on his round and then free-wheels back down the hill to the iconic narrative: “t’was like taking bread to top of the world – t’was a grand ride back though”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Jeremy Gibson, Marketing Director at Hovis said: “At Hovis, we have always been about being real, honest people, with a passion for baking bread. The values of our brand have never been more relevant, so we decided to remaster and relaunch our ‘Boy on the Bike’ advert. It represents the iconic, family-focused nature of Hovis, that is at the heart of everything we do. ‘Boy on the Bike’ was the launch pad for the modern Hovis brand and laid the foundations for us to be one of Britain’s favourite wholemeal and seeded bread.

“Despite being over 46 years old, recent research has found that the advert is as good today as it’s always been and differs from adverts focusing on broader entertainment. In bringing the ‘Boy on the Bike’ back, we are re-engaging those who have loved this ad since 1973 and also introducing it to a new generation through numerous digital channels.

“We are seeing a mass movement across the country celebrating craftsmanship, traditional products and UK produce, and this advert is one of the most iconic examples of a brand celebrating the ties that bind us as communities and as a country, drawing on tradition but informing our future.”

Ridley Scott speaking about the ‘Boy on the Bike’ said: “I’m thrilled that the ‘Boy on the Bike’, 46 years on, is still regarded as such an iconic and heart-warming story which remains close to the heart of the nation. I remember the filming process like it was yesterday, and its success represents the power of the advert. It taught me that when you combine the appropriate music and the appropriate film you have lift off. In fact, advertising taught me everything I know, and I brought this knowledge forward into film.”

Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive commented: “The BFI is proud to have restored one of the most potent, popular and iconic films in British advertising history. The ‘Boy on the Bike’ is a mini masterpiece of big, nostalgic emotion, but the original elements have been ravaged by time. Due to the skills of the conservation teams at the BFI National Archive it is now fully restored to its former glory for new generations to enjoy. It looks and sounds as good today as it did in 1973"

Carl Barlow, the original ‘Boy on the Bike’ added: “This advert and Hovis have been such a huge part of my life and I am delighted it is coming back to the small screen.”

Richard Powell OBE, Director, History of Advertising Trust, said: ‘‘We have managed the Hovis archive for over 20 years now and they are a fantastic client, because they really see the value in using their past to inspire the future. The ‘Boy on the Bike’ is without doubt the most enquired about commercial in our collections and it has been voted the nation’s favourite of all time on several occasions. The original became an instant hit when it was released and immediately entered into popular culture.

With a perfect blend of nostalgia and creativity, the ad shows what brand heritage can do if it is preserved and curated in the right way. It was fantastic to work closely with Hovis and their agencies on this campaign. The history of a company really can provide inspiration for its future and here at the History of Advertising Trust, that’s what we help to celebrate.”

The ad will air on 3rd June on ITV and will be showing during peak times throughout June.