Life & Culture

Why aren’t there more Jews in our adverts?

You’re more likely to see aliens from outer space in British commercials than you are members of the tribe


Anyone alive who’s seen any television commercials, soaps, dramas, magazine adverts or billboards over the past few years could not possibly have failed to notice how enormously the appearance of people of colour has increased and the representation of ethnic diversity has rocketed.

Gone are the days when only all-whites danced around with detergents for your small whites. It wasn’t just the Milky Bar Kid who was milky white, everyone in Television Advert Land was.

OK, there were a couple of rare exceptions, like the black man who said ‘fried onion rings’ in a Birds Eye commercial, or… and…. actually I can’t really think of any others. I have always watched a lot of television adverts and can tell you that, until relatively recently, you were more likely to see aliens from outer space on British television adverts selling mashed potatoes than you were likely to see any other type of diversity.

Now, however, at long last things have changed and advertising agencies have finally woken up to realise that there’s a much broader and wider ‘buying’ audience out there and that they come in all colours and creeds. And, my goodness gracious, how keen they are to show us how embracing they suddenly all are of diversity. These days they are desperate to show us all how incredibly inclusive they are in every way imaginable.

Only they’re not, are they?

Way back in 1988, Maureen Lipman was unforgettable and utterly brilliant as an unmistakably Jewish grandmother in a British Telecom television commercial - “An ology! He gets an ology and he says he’s failed” - but what have we Jews had since then?

When was the last time you saw a visibly Jewish person on a telly ad extolling the wonders of Waitrose or skipping with joy to Sainsbury’s? Think. Think hard. But you already know the answer, don’t you? It’s never. Didn’t happen. Gornisht.

Obviously I’m not expecting to see a Haredi family on my telly at a KFC, saying it’s so good they’re going to have Friday Night Dinner there every week. Or a visibly Orthodox Jewish family going meshugah with excitement over pork chops, but surely there are plenty of other things Jews could help sell? What about fish? At least they should let us have the fish.

If they really want to embrace everyone then isn’t it about time the ads added Jews? There’s the obvious non-Kosher stuff we probably can’t do but think of all the equally obvious things Jews would be absolutely superb at selling.

First, Volvos. Why on earth haven’t Volvo got an average-sized Haredi family - say, a couple with 12 children - piling into a Volvo, picnic hampers in the boot, Yiddisha tunes or klezmer music busting out of the CD player, and off they go, cruising down the M3.

OK, that would be illegal. Seven is the maximum capacity of SUV Volvos. But that’s even better because they could take two Volvos instead. Double the sales! Nobody wants a repeat of what happened in Wales a few years ago when an astonished traffic cop stopped a car of holidaying Stamford Hillers only to find an ultra-orthodox family of about 15 people somehow squeezed inside. Well maybe I want that to happen again as the thought of the incredulity on the officer’s face really made me laugh.

In my endeavours to present readers of the JC with the most searing, trenchant, empirically researched hard-hitting deep investigative journalism, I went to a big Tesco to follow religious Jewish shoppers down the aisles and observe what was going into their trolleys. It was an exciting afternoon, although to be honest there weren’t many surprises. The excitement came from the stalking element. I’ve never really done any undercover work before (but I did resolve to try new hobbies in 2024 so you could say it’s been a good start).

It turned out Orthodox Jewish trolleys were filled with cleaning products, fizzy drinks, fruit and vegetables, sesame crackers, fish, cornflakes, and, of course, nappies.

Imagine how cool a nappy ad would be with jolly Jewish parents dancing their infants around, telling us what simcha the nappies gave them. “With so much to do, we can rely on them for all the poo.”

I’m pitching my ideas to the advertising agencies tomorrow. You’ll know who to thank.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive