Mar 15, 2018

Stephen Hawking: How brands harnessed the physicist's star power

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died aged 76. Campaign showcases his best-known work with brands over the years.

Stephen Hawking: How brands harnessed the physicist's star power

Along with advancing our understanding of the cosmos, being feted by world leaders and winning a legendary (fictional) poker hand, Stephen Hawking also appeared in a number of ads over the years. Here's a selection.  

BT "Keep Talking" by Saatchi & Saatchi (1993)

Hawking provided the voiceover in a BT ad promoting the concept that humanity's greatest achievements have come about from the power of communication.

Specsavers "Physicist" by Specsavers (1999)

This 60-second spot saw the Cambridge professor taking a fantastic journey around the solar system in a space ship. The craft soars past one planet and then another. A close-up of Saturn’s rings is accompanied by the physically disabled Hawking explaining how important having good vision is to him.

GoCompare "Save the nation" by Dare (2013)

As part of the brand's "Saving the nation" campaign, this ad depicts Hawking giving a lecture on how he has "finally calculated and formulised the exact conditions needed to generate a super massive black hole". After an audience member asks what Hawking will do with his discovery, the ad cuts to Gio Compario being sucked into a black hole. Hawking said of the ad: "I confess I am a fan of the ads, but I am also an opera fan, so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to help save the nation and silence Gio. I hope the public find it as funny as I did."

Paddy Power "Hawking Talking" by Taylor Herring (2014)

Few could have predicted that Hawking would ever lament the England football team's failure to "hit a cow's arse with a banjo" when it comes to penalties, as he did in a pre-World Cup viral campaign by Paddy Power. The bookmaker's online ad showed the legendary theoretical physicist breaking down the statistics and revealing that the key to penalty-taking success is to "give it some welly". Hawking also details the ideal conditions for English footballers (including 3pm kick-off times and sympathetic European referees) before revealing that he will be putting his money on Brazil to win this summer.

Jaguar F Pace "The arrival" by Spark 44 (2016)

Hawking took to Facebook in 2016 to announce that he was playing the part of a villain in a new Jaguar ad. "You all know me as Professor Stephen Hawking, the physicist wrestling with the great concepts of time and space. But there is another side to me that you may not know: Stephen Hawking the actor," Hawking posted. "I have always wanted to be in a movie playing the part of a typical British villain. And now, thanks to Jaguar my wish has come true."

Gen-Pep "Pep talk by Stephen Hawking" by Forsman & Bodenfors (2017)

Stephen Hawking appeared in a Swedish TV ad last year to build awareness about physical inactivity and its affect on public health. The work for Swedish health organisation Gen-Pep (Generation Pep) launched in November across TV, social media platforms and digital.

(This article first appeared on

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