Fly fishing

World’s Best Ads Ever #96: JR Hartley urges people to use the yellow pages for non-emergencies

We asked our readers to vote for their all-time favorite ads. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now we bring you the 100 best TV and video commercials of all time.

In 1983, the hearts of the British public were well and truly touched by the introduction of the fictional character JR Hartley to promote the Yellow Pages.

Abbott Mead Vickers created the 60-second ad which depicts an elderly man searching for a copy of JR Hartley’s Fly Fishing. After going from bookstore to bookstore, he returns home empty-handed, that’s when his daughter hands him the Yellow Pages which finally help him find a store that stocks it. The ad closes when the audience finds out that the man is JR Hartley himself.

The aim was to change the perception that the Yellow Pages were for emergencies only, but could instead be used for the finer things in life. In the ad, the voiceover says, “The good old yellow pages. We don’t just help with the nasty things in life like a clogged drain. We are also here for the beautiful things.

The ad broke the myth and as a result, Yellow Pages saw non-urgent classification inquiries jump from 6% to 20%. The yellow pages have also seen an increase in inquiries from the British Library and bookstores.

JR Hartley became such a cultural phenomenon that eight years after its release ghost author Michael Russell penned JR Hartley’s Fly Fishing: Memories of Angling Days, which was later published by Random House.

The ad was rerun in 2001 in memory of actor Norman Lumsden, who played JR Hartley, while Yellow Pages ran the ad again in 2011 with a new twist. This time, JR Hartley has been replaced by fictional DJ Day V Lately who is looking for a copy of his trance remix Pulse and Thunder and eventually finds it through the Yellow Pages app.