Fly-Fishing By J.R Hartley - The advert that inspired a book

 In 1983, the British public’s heartstrings were well and truly tugged with the introduction of the fictional character JR Hartley to promote the Yellow Pages.

Abbott Mead Vickers created the 60-second ad that depicts an elderly man searching for a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. After going from bookshop to bookshop, he returns home empty-handed, which is when his daughter hands him the Yellow Pages which helps him finally find a shop that stocks it. The ad closes when the audience discovers the man is himself JR Hartley.

The brief was to change the perception that Yellow Pages was just for emergencies but instead could be used for the nicer things in life. In the ad, the voiceover declares: “Good old Yellow Pages. We don’t just help with the nasty things in life like a blocked drain. We’re there for the nice things too.”

The ad busted the myth and, as a result, Yellow Pages saw inquiries into non-emergency classifications rise from 6% to 20%. Yellow Pages also saw a boost in inquiries to the British Library and bookshops.

The commercial touched the heart of British television viewers, and soon bookshops and libraries began receiving requests for the J. R. Hartley book. Of course, the character was fictional and no such book existed. And herein, angling expert Michael Russell saw an opportunity. He wrote a book about fly fishing and published it under the pseudonym J. R. Hartley. Publisher Stanley Paul even hired Norman Lumsden, who played J. R. Hartley in the advert, to promote the book as the public face of the author. The book flew off the shelves. It became so popular that there were eight reprints and it became a bestseller selling 130,000 copies in the Christmas of 1991 alone. The book even yielded a sequel called J. R. Hartley Casts Again: More Memories of Angling Days

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