Are you old enough to remember the days of videotapes? Personally, I grew up with them and I remember that at the beginning of A Fish called Wanda, John Cleese’s ‘twin brother’ came on to give: A Very Public Service Message.
He warned against the dangers of subliminal advertising, but as he spoke the word Schweppes would, unbeknownst to him, appear on everything from the bottom of his shoe to the lining of his jacket. Slowly but surely it gets more and more ‘in your face’ until, finally, the advert ends with the brand's name being written in huge flashing lights behind him. John Cleese then suggests that before we start the movie we “sit back, relax and, if I may be so bold, pour yourselves a glass of the first non-alcoholic sparkling beverage that comes to mind. Whatever it may be.”
I always found this hilarious, but also particularly interesting because, growing up in the south of Portugal, this subliminal message already seemed rather familiar to me. Indeed, and this might be more of a challenge: is there anybody old enough to remember a time when these charming Schweppes tile advertisements (usually of a chimney or beach) were not around?
Time travel back to a slower pace of life Turns out they date back to between 1956 and 1965 when Schweppes commissioned the Fabrica Aleluia de Aveiro to produce them. They all say ‘Algarve e… Schweppes’ and were often strategically placed by a café on the roadside where a weary traveller, who in those days was quite possibly making his way by donkey and cart, might decide to stop for a refreshment and do, well.. exactly what John Cleese suggested.
Jaguars and cowboys
But it wasn’t just Schweppes adverts that this factory created. The more eagle eyed amongst you would no doubt have noticed a few other cool old tile adverts around. However these brands, as far as I know, haven't had the same lasting longevity as Schweppes.
Jaguar Refrigerantes, for example, only operated briefly in the 60s before rebranding. However, its striking adverts featuring a jaguar roaring inside a red circle were also clearly hoping to subliminally sway anybody passing by the local watering hole (as you can often find them ‘ready to pounce’ close to a Schweppes advert).
You can also still spot the black cowboy set against a yellow tiled sky for ‘Nitrato do Chile’, a natural sodium nitrate fertiliser from Chile that was used a lot in Portugal back in those days.
There's also Mabor Geral, Firestone and a few others. But unlike Schweppes which seems to be exclusive to the Algarve, all the rest can be found all over the country.
Tile Ads in the Algarve
Tile Ads in the Algarve
I thought it might be nice to hunt some of them down and decided to put a shout out on the ‘Everything and Anything Algarve’ Facebook group. I asked people if they’ve seen any? And if so, could they please stop and take a picture and tell me where? It soon became clear by the huge amount of likes and comments that people have a lot of love for these old signs and I received reported sightings from Olhão all the way to Monchique and beyond.
Seek and you shall find
To be honest, I was a little surprised that the internet couldn’t just tell me exactly where they all were. But it turns out that, of course, I just hadn’t looked hard enough.
Way ahead of me, a group of three Portuguese friends from the north who also grew up seeing these tiles thought that it was about time that there was a place that catalogued and celebrated them. So together they created a project called Azulejo Publicitário Português where people can send in pictures and the location of any they find.
The trouble is these old signs are becoming increasingly endangered and aren’t maintained. Since they are on private property they are often removed, covered up or abandoned.
Now, you could argue that enough is enough! Schweppes got a pretty sweet deal already - as they could probably get into the Guinness Book of Records for the longest running advertising campaign. But I feel that, at this point, these quaint and charming advertisements have moved beyond mere publicity and are now a fascinating part of the Algarve’s history and should be cherished.
And the hunt goes on…
I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve looked closely at the map of all the signs that Azulejo Publicitário Português have managed to catalogue so far and judging by all the messages I received - there are still a few ‘wild Schweppes’ out there yet to be captured.
So please, visit www.azulejopublicitario.pt and if you think you’ve seen one that they haven’t yet mapped - let them know.
If you do that, I think you definitely deserve to sit back, relax and, if I may be so bold, pour yourself a glass of, well...