Ridley Scott's Classic 1973 Hovis Ad 'Boy on a Bike' Has Been Beautifully Remastered

The beloved spot returns to British television

The grainy old YouTube versions of classic commercials from a generation ago don't do them justice. But every once in a while, a classic spot gets lovingly remastered—and now, it's happened to one of the most beloved spots ever made. 

Hovis, the British bread company, has worked with the British Film Institute and Ridley Scott Associates to 4K digitally remaster its 1973 spot "Boy on a Bike." That's the classic spot that Scott shot 46 years ago, early in his career—and which was recently voted the most iconic U.K. ad in history. 

The simple spot shows a boy pushing his bike full of bread up a steep cobblestone road—and later enjoying the ride back down. Nostalgic even when it first run (it's set in postwar Britain), it now fully has the air of a lost world. Yet the product, of course, connects us to the time gone by.

The line at the end is: "As good today as it's always been." 

The ad also includes a rerecording of the music—Dvorak's New World Symphony—by a new generation of the Ashington Colliery brass band, including the grandson of one of the original brass players. 

Check out the remastered spot here: 

The 'Boy on the Bike' is back!

The spot returns to TV on Monday night in the U.K. 

"I'm thrilled that the 'Boy on the Bike,' 46 years on, is still regarded as such an iconic and heart-warming story which remains close to the heart of the nation," Scott said in a statement. "I remember the filming process like it was yesterday, and its success represents the power of the advert. It taught me that when you combine the appropriate music and the appropriate film, you have liftoff. In fact, advertising taught me everything I know, and I brought this knowledge forward into film." 

"At Hovis, we have always been about being real, honest people, with a passion for baking bread," said Jeremy Gibson, marketing director at Hovis. "The values of our brand have never been more relevant, so we decided to remaster and relaunch our 'Boy on the Bike' advert. It represents the iconic, family-focused nature of Hovis, that is at the heart of everything we do. 'Boy on the Bike' was the launch pad for the modern Hovis brand and laid the foundations for us to be one of Britain's favorite wholemeal and seeded bread." 

Gibson added: "Despite being over 46 years old, recent research has found that the advert is as good today as it's always been and differs from adverts focusing on broader entertainment. In bringing the 'Boy on the Bike' back, we are re-engaging those who have loved this ad since 1973 and also introducing it to a new generation through numerous digital channels. 

"We are seeing a mass movement across the country celebrating craftsmanship, traditional products and U.K. produce, and this advert is one of the most iconic examples of a brand celebrating the ties that bind us as communities and as a country, drawing on tradition but informing our future." 

Key players including Scott and the actor who played the boy talk more about the project in this behind-the-scenes video:

"The BFI is proud to have restored one of the most potent, popular and iconic films in British advertising history," said Robin Baker, head curator of the British Film Institute National Archive. "The 'Boy on the Bike' is a mini masterpiece of big, nostalgic emotion, but the original elements have been ravaged by time. Due to the skills of the conservation teams at the BFI National Archive, it is now fully restored to its former glory for new generations to enjoy. It looks and sounds as good today as it did in 1973." 

We've seen other old spots restored like this over the years—most notably, Gatorade's "Be Like Mike" as well as this great Patrick Swayze spot for Pabst Blue Ribbon from the late '70s. 

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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