When I was at college in New York, studying advertising, Americans always said the same thing.

“Ah, the really great advertising was those Burma Shave posters.”

Then they’d chuckle as they fondly remembered them.

It turned out the Burma Shave posters had been done decades before but Americans still remembered them as their favourite advertising.

Burma Shave was one of the first brushless shaving creams.

They ran posters across rural America where Americans drove for hundreds of miles on long, straight highways with nothing to look at.

Except every so often six posters would crop up, with a 100 foot gap between each one, timed to coincide with the speed the cars were going at.

Travelling at 35mph the signs would be 3 seconds apart.

Each poster would have one line of a very simple rhyme on it.

First they introduced the concept of shaving without a shaving brush:


2nd poster: YOU’LL SOON SEE ‘EM

3rd poster: ON THE SHELF

4th poster: IN SOME

5th poster: MUSEUM

6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

They’d expand on the time-saving advantages of brushless shaving.

1st poster: EVERY SHAVER

2nd poster: NOW CAN SNORE

3rd poster: SIX MORE MINUTES

4th poster: THAN BEFORE

5th poster: BY USING

6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

Then they’d have fun with the benefits of a closer shave:

1st poster: IF YOU HAVE

2nd poster: A DOUBLE CHIN

3rd poster: YOU’VE TWO

4th poster: GOOD REASONS

5th poster: TO BEGIN


Everyone knew the last poster was always the Burma Shave logo.

So people tried to guess the next rhyme as they drove along.

1st poster: HENRY THE EIGHTH

2nd poster: SURE HAD

3rd poster: TROUBLE

4th poster: SHORT TERM WIVES


6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

The historical theme was of course popular:

1st poster: SAID JULIET

2nd poster: TO ROMEO

3rd poster: IF YOU

4th poster: WON’T SHAVE

5th poster: GO HOMEO

6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

Obviously so were allusions to sexual success:

1st poster: DINAH DOESN’T

2nd poster: TREAT HIM RIGHT

3rd poster: BUT IF HE’D

4th poster: SHAVE

5th poster: THEN DYNA-MITE

6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

The ads became so well known, they didn’t even need to mention shaving specifically:

1st poster: THE MONKEY TOOK

2nd poster: ONE LOOK AT JIM


4th poster: BACK AT HIM

5th poster: HE NEEDED

6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

And a decent shave became no less than any wife would demand from her husband:

1st poster: MAN PASSES

2nd poster: DOG HOUSE

3rd poster: DOG SEES CHIN

4th poster: DOG GETS OUT

5th poster: MAN GETS IN

6th poster: BURMA SHAVE

Over the decade or so that they ran, there were 7,000 different rhymes.

Nowadays we think any form of technological innovation in media is daring and original.

But eighty years ago people didn’t just wait around for technological innovation, they used their brains to innovate existing media.

Simple, fun, catchy, memorable.

Of course you won’t see any of those ads in an awards annual.

But I don’t think there’s many current award winners that ordinary people will still be talking about in fifty years time.