The famous Keep on Truckin’ advert in 1976 launched a new chocolate bar with an advertising campaign aimed at male consumers. The manufacturer, Rowntree’s of York, caused a stir at the time with the first male-targeted campaign for confectionery.
The Yorkie bar had been invented after Rowntree’s marketing executive, Eric Nicoli, spotted a gap in the market, early in 1976. He dreamed up the Yorkie, launched as an alternative to the rival Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar. It was chunkier and more solid than its rival, as it was aimed at men.
As such, the television advert that launched the brand featured a truck driver thundering along the road in his HGV, Yorkie bar at his side.
Following the initial trucker advert, many more Yorkie adverts were made in the same vein, including one featuring male workers on a building site who are laughing because one of their workmates has left his Yorkie bar behind.
They’re not laughing for long, as he comes back and uses a giant crane to lift up the hut where they’re sitting, leaving them in the middle of the builder’s yard, in the open air.
In the 1980s, toy manufacturer Corgi made lorries with the Yorkie bar logo on the side, furthering its image as being a chocolate bar for truckers.
In 2002, some years after Nestlé had taken over Rowntree’s, the Yorkie advertising campaign went a step further with a controversial new slogan: “Yorkie – it’s not for girls!”
This was something that would be unlikely to happen today – and even 16 years ago, there were accusations it had become the world’s first “openly sexist” chocolate bar with an “aggressively macho” advertising campaign! The Yorkie bar even had a “no women” sign on the wrapper.
In 2009, Nestlé made a special edition Yorkie bar aimed at the British military, with the slogan, “It’s not for civvies.”
Despite criticisms, the “It’s not for girls” tagline and the “no women” sign remained on the packaging until 2012, when a new slogan, “Man fuel for man stuff,” was born. The new campaign showed men being made to feel like superheroes after completing relatively mundane tasks.
Nestlé would be highly unlikely to use the 2002 slogan today, in a politically correct climate where there have been complaints recently that Kleenex “Mansize” tissues are sexist. Comments appeared on Twitter, such as, “The world is changing,” and suggesting, “In this day and age, is it right for Kleenex UK to have a product that is MAN-sized?”
As a result, Kleenex is dropping the branding, which has been in existence since 1956, to be replaced with the new “Extra Large” labelling.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of a chocolate bar aimed at men, the original mid-1970s advertising campaign (which was a totally different era) seemed to hit the mark in other ways too.
On the truckers’ forum, Truck Net UK, an online survey asked truck drivers what had inspired them to begin driving trucks. The Yorkie advert was cited by more than one respondent as being their inspiration.
One trucker wrote, “The old Yorkie advert was the leading influence in my trucking life. I remember this big tough guy climbing down the steps from the cab and biting a Yorkie bar, and I thought, that’s what I’m going to be.”
Another trucker responded, “It’s amazing that after all these years, people still think truck drivers are linked with Yorkie Bars! I think they should re-run the ad – it might raise our profile.”