The series of ten television commercials for Cinzano created an unlikely partnership between Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter and actress Joan Collins.
Viewers saw the couple on board an aircraft, on holiday, at a fancy dress party, at a ski lodge, entertaining Japanese businessmen – and in each scenario, a pretentious, accident-prone Rossiter accidentally douses his prudish wife Melissa (Collins) in Cinzano.
Although the viewer always knew what was coming, the ads were perfectly timed and skilfully written, and the not-quite slapstick mocked the drink commercials of other brands aimed at a younger generation.
It was Rossiter who suggested to director Alan Parker the idea of using the old music-hall joke of spilling one’s tea – the premise of each of the ten commercials. He was also regularly involved in the choreography and gag lines, often referring to Joan as ‘the prop’.
The advertisements were comedy classics and, by 1981, had become so popular there were rumours of a feature film.
But the campaign ended in 1983 when Cinzano decided to take a global marketing route. Apparently, sales of rival Martini soared as viewers confused the two brands.