A commercial from 1995 for Hovis

Hovis is a UK brand of flour and bread, now owned by Premier Foods.

The name was coined by London student Herbert Grime in a national competition set by S. Fitton & Sons Ltd to find a trading name for their patent flour which was rich in wheat germ. Grime won £25 when he coined the word from the Latin phrase hominis vis – “the strength of man”.
The Hovis process was patented on 6 October 1887 by Richard “Stoney” Smith (1836–1900), and S. Fitton & Sons Ltd developed the brand, milling the flour and selling it along with Hovis branded baking tins to other bakers. They became Hovis Limited in 1918.

After a succession of mergers, Hovis eventually became part of Rank Hovis McDougall in 1962, now the quoted food conglomerate RHM, which also owns the Mother’s Pride and Nimble bread brands. The bread making division has been known as British Bakeries since 1955.

The Hovis part of the business still specialises in high wheatgerm wholemeal flour, the bread being baked independently.

The Adverts

In 1973, Hovis became lodged in the public imagination through an evocative television advertisement, “Boy on Bike” (a.k.a. “Boy on the Bike” and “Bike Ride”), directed by Ridley Scott though Collett Dickenson Pearce & Partners and featuring the slow movement of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 rearranged for brass. The advert has been voted Britain’s favourite advertisement of all time. The ad was filmed on Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset. This advertisement was repeated on British television for a 10-day run in May 2006 to commemorate the firm’s 120th anniversary. The boy on the bike, Carl Barlow, then aged 13, became a firefighter in East Ham in 1979.

In 2008 Hovis departed from the “boy on a bike” format by commissioning an advert to show England’s changing social landscape since the product’s release 122 years ago.

The advert lasts 122 seconds (1 for each year since the product was first made) and caused the episode of Coronation Street to be shortened by 2 seconds to accommodate this. It was shot in Liverpool and required over 750 extras.

The boy in the advert is 13 year old Brian Mackie from Lanarkshire, Scotland, and we see him travel from the Victorian era, through to the early 20th Century, with a reference to the Titanic, before showing a suffragette march. It then depicts World War One with the soldiers marching off to war. This is followed briefly by a look at the interwar period, and an early automobile, before entering the the Blitz; the boy sees devastated buildings, listens to an extract of Winston Churchill’s famous speech ‘We shall fight on the beaches’, and witnesses a plane fly over London. We then see a street party marking the coronation of the British monarch, Elizabeth II. The next scene shows the 1960s, and a car celebrating the England World Cup victory of 1966, before showing a darker social history even with the Miners’ Strike. Throughout the advert we see the attire of the boy change to match the stereotypical clothing of the period, and multiculturalism is alluded to through showing British Asians in the late 20th Century time frame. The final nod to history is the millennium fireworks display before he finally arrives home. The background music is a commissioned piece for the advert, “History”, by Working for a Nuclear Free City.

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