40 years of marketing trivia

Weird, wonderful and random marketing facts drawn from the Marketing Week archives.

marketing trivia


– Freezer ownership in 1977 was 33%, compared with the Office of National Statistics’ most recent figure of 97%.

– Unilever used to own a chain of fishmongers called Mac Fisheries. It was started by Unilever founder William Lever in 1918 but ceased operating in 1979.

– An annual subscription to Marketing Week in 1978 cost £25 (£50 for international delivery).

– A well-paid marketing manager in 1978 could expect a salary of around £10,000 per year, judging by Marketing Week’s recruitment pages (with ads specifying an age group of “late twenties to early thirties”).

READ MORE: The best paid sectors and the persistent pay gap – What 20 years of Salary Survey data reveals

– Yorkshire Television managing director Paul Fox predicted a fourth TV channel in the UK would “not be able to give away its advertising time, let alone sell it”.


– Twentieth Century Fox Video supported the 1982 VHS release of Star Wars with a £70,000 campaign – its largest investment in a single cassette release at the time.

– Carlsberg’s company car of choice was the Vauxhall Cavalier – of which it bought 200 in one order shortly after its launch.

– The world’s biggest wine and spirits company in the 1980s was a Canadian company called Seagram. It later also owned Universal Pictures before being split up, with its drinks assets sold to Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Coca-Cola.

Truck advertising the Seagram’s Escapes brand of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages. Credit: MobiusDaXter

– Agencies were “aghast” when ITV paid £47m over four years for exclusive broadcasting rights to English league football in 1988. Premier League rights sold for £5.14bn in the three seasons up to 2018.

– The UK suffered an “ice-cream crisis”, after a series of disappointing summers from 1984 compounded European regulations stating the product had to be made from cream, not vegetable fat.


– Waitrose was later than most of its supermarket competitors to cotton on to trends of the 1990s. It only finished installing electronic tills and started opening on Sundays in 1995.

– ITV was accused of trying to derail the launch of Channel 5 in 1997 with its schedule for that week – featuring five episodes of Emmerdale including an hour-long special.

– Sky won Marketing Week’s 1997 services brand of the year award, thanks to its promotion of Frank Bruno’s fight with Mike Tyson, the first UK pay-per-view event.

– Ryan Giggs fell to number 7 in Company magazine’s 1998 list of Britain’s 10 most eligible batchelors, according to an ad the magazine took out in Marketing Week.

– A Concorde flight carrying both Martin Sorrell and Rupert Murdoch had to return to Heathrow an hour into its flight, after part of the wing fell off.


– Snack brands rushed to roll out their latest innovations to take advantage of the 2002 FIFA World Cup – football-shaped crisps. Golden Wonder launched a spherical version of Wotsits called Goalden Balls, in response to bacon-flavoured Walkers Footballs.

– Manchester United’s turnover in 1999-2000 was £117m, making it the world’s most valuable football club the year it won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions’ League. Its annual revenues today are five times higher, keeping it top of Deloitte’s ranking.

– Research firm Nielsen/NetRatings recommended that brands wanting to reach internet-savvy consumers in emerging markets in the mid 2000s should invest in targeting internet cafes – particularly in Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia.

– Novelty music duo the Cheeky Girls sparked a wave of imitations, including CheekyMoon.com, a gaming website which offered prizes such as the services of CheekyButlers and CheekyMaids. Sadly it is no longer in existence.

– “We’ll soon all be accessing our information and entertainment with a phone,” predicted Marketing Week columnist Torin Douglas in 2006, a year before the launch of the iPhone. As he also correctly noted: “If you’re a broadcaster or a publisher, an advertiser or an agency, you can no longer ignore that.”