In the 1980s, television soap operas were everywhere. But one of the best-known soap romances of the eighties wasn’t taking place in Brookside Close, Albert Square, or even in Texas – it was acted out in a flat somewhere in London.
Nescafé Gold Blend was introduced to Britain in the 1960s, and for the next 20 years, advertisements focussed on the product itself. Then the ad agency changed tack, focussing instead on what Gold Blend could do for you – make you into a successful, sophisticated person of the 1980s. It was onto a winner.
One of the campaign’s influences was the American TV series Moonlighting, which featured a “will they, won’t they?” romantic sub-plot around stars Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. The plot appealed to women (who were the target audience for Gold Blend), so the makers of the new adverts decided to mimic the show, ending each commercial on a cliffhanger.
The campaign proved the making of its stars, Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan.
When Maughan rang the doorbell of Tony Head’s flat in 1987 and asked if she could borrow his coffee, the combination of good looks and sophistication was an instant hit with millions of viewers. At one stage, their romance even merited an editorial in The Times.
By the time the search was on for a new Gold Blend couple, over 4,000 women applied. The role was given to Louise Hunt. Her partner in caffeine was actor Mark Aitken.
The third Gold Blend couple – Simone Bendix and Neil Roberts – were the final lovers to take the roles.
Many advertisements have produced spin-offs, but Gold Blend is the only product to have its own CD of love songs (Love Over Gold), which went Top Ten, a video of the ad campaign and a best-selling novel.
The campaign achieved what it set out to do – It pushed sales of Gold Blend up by 70 per cent and, in doing so, helped it grow from a minor player to the second-biggest coffee brand in the UK.