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13 absurd and amusing British adverts from the What Hi-Fi? archives

13 absurd and amusing British adverts from the What Hi-Fi? archives
(Image credit: Future)

In celebration of British Hi-Fi Week, we have dusted off the What Hi-Fi? magazine archives from the '70s, '80s and '90s to surface some of the best (read: amusing) adverts from the British brands you love – from Arcam to Acoustic Energy and more.

As Albert Einstein once said, “creativity is intelligence having fun”. And we bet those behind some of the adverts below had as much as fun making them as we have looking back on them.

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Forget Black Friday, let's bring back Unilet Hi-Fi's Blue Murder IV sales. Goodness knows what fatal anarchy occurred during the in-store rampages of the retailer's Blue Murder I, II and III events, but a month-long hi-fi sale does sound worth spilling blood over.

(Image credit: Future)

Guilty. We ran some questionable adverts ourselves within our pages. But it is true, we did (and do) bring the bass to your place. And the mids to your cribs. And the treble to your... dammit.

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Why is the advert referencing the common misquote in Casablanca, or even the eponymous Woody Allen? Why, in a magazine containing hi-fi reviews, would you want to dismiss them as 'just an opinion'? What relationship does that have to an ape? Why is said ape wearing a Superman t-shirt (that we now want to own)? We want answers and we want them now, Superfi.

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Wait, that's not hi-fi. While this Superkings advert from an '80s What Hi-Fi? issue doesn't glorify cigarette smoking as much as some adverts of ol', the World Health Organisation would no doubt have rather we stuck to promoting hi-fi brands, retailers and product.

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As we asked ourselves when penning our 10 strange and striking hi-fi adverts from the 1980s, what could be a better advertisement for hi-fi than the prospect of some hot and heavy penguin love? For Mordaunt-Short, there was clearly nothing better. Now excuse us while we go chill to some Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

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This sneaky bit of indirect comparative advertising does rather remind you of a Lidl or Aldi campaign, doesn't it? Credit where credit's due, Wharfedale is responsible for some of the most interesting hi-fi print adverts over the decades.

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What a tease, and a clever bit of marketing that may have put Tannoy fans off any spring purchases. And we can't help but think: if Apple put out something of this vague teasery nature today, the whole internet would be ablaze with interpretations and postulations within minutes. 

(Image credit: Future)

Linn was another perpetrator of amusing, and often metaphoric and random, adverts – and it even snapped up the ape before Cadbury got its hands on him.

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If Owen Wilson ever wanted to play the role of a tough guy, he might need to create one of these adverts for himself. Dual, so famous for its turntables, clearly felt the need to shout about its other, much less renowned foray into electronics.

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"Over the years he'll take your cat, your hard-earned cash and years off your life. Do you really think it will be any different with your Arcam?" A little morbid perhaps, but an affective Arcam (and anti-children) campaign nonetheless. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, we'd probably pass in inheriting that beast of a remote these days.

(Image credit: Future)

Why of course he is, and of course these AE100s lived up to past Acoustic Energy successes. "The finest small speakers we've tested," we said in October 1995.

(Image credit: Future)

To echo our sentiment in our 10 weird and wonderful hi-fi adverts from the 1970s, Celestion's multicultural (but perhaps not quite politically correct) series of adverts is certainly something to behold. The "world of sound" is what Celestion seemed to be offering, even if the terminology seems a little hackneyed.

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Celestion's Home Theatre in a Box not only promised 101 per cent sound (sigh) but also your own movie set without the need of "a degree in engineering or a Spielberg-sized budget"!