Tony Williams Directs Brilliant TV Ads

Tony Williams is a New Zealand film and commercial director responsible for many of my teenage and young adulthood cultural moments in TV advertising.

Crunchie Train Robbery

There’s Cadbury‘s Crunchie Train Robbery of 1975 which featured a number of would be train robbers, including a minister. The train is stopped and the treasure chests spill over – crunchie bars for everyone! It came out the year I started high school. I was in Tawa, Wellington when the ad was revived with a north to south tour of a Crunchie Bar steam train. The photo here comes from Brian Greenwood from his train site.

The ad comes with the song:

Life’s a whole long journey, boy, before you grow too old,
Don’t miss the opportunity to strike a little gold.
Out West the folks are crossing you.
The way to make them stop, is to quick draw your Crunchie bar…
-And fill them full of choc.
Have a Crunchie Hokey pokey bar, Golden Crunchie Hokey pokey bar.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube

BASF Play it Again Sam

I was in my first year at university in Dunedin, 1980, when the BASF Dear John ad came out. The ad, set in army camp, features a soldier receiving a letter which goes to the tune of “Dear John”, the country song written by Lewis Talley, Fuzzy Owen and Billy Barton and made popular by Jean Shepard during the Korean war.

Dear John, Oh how I hate to write.
Dear John, Oh how I miss you so, tonight.
But my love for you has gone,
So I’m sending you this song.
Tonight I’m with another.
You’ll like him John,
He’s your brother.
So adieu to you forever.
Dear John.

As the song finishes the sergeant adapts the classic line from Humphrey Bogart, “Play it again John”.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube

Download Jean Shepard’s version at iTunes.

Jean Shepard at iTunes

Toyota Hilux Bugger

Dog says bugger in Toyota Hilux TV Ad

In 1998 Williams directed the classic Toyota Hilux ‘Bugger’ ad for Saatchi and Saatchi NZ. The whole idea was that this 4 wheel drive vehicle was more powerful than anyone could expect. The farmer and his ute have a number of mishaps – knocking over the fence, pulling the front wheels off the tractor, flattening the dunny with a stump, doing some (unseen) damage to a swamped cow, dirtying the washing, and leaving the dog behind. The word ‘bugger’ is used by the Wal (of Footrot Flats) like character, his wife and his dog.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube

The ad would have been discussed in every home in NZ – was it OK to use the word ‘bugger’? Despite the resulting complaints the ad continued. Australia picked up the ad with hardly any problems. “Bugger” entered the NZ vocabulary like never before. I remember visiting Dunedin the weekend of the Super 12 Rugby Final between the Otago Highlanders and Canterbury Crusaders. On the way in from the airport I passed a shed with ‘Go the Highlanders!” painted on the roof. On the way back to the airport this was crossed out and underneath was the word, “Bugger!”

Ads directed by Tony Williams

Tony WilliamsSydney Film Company represent Tony Williams in New Zealand and Australia.

Cadbury Crunchie – Train Robbery
Toyota Hilux – Bugger
Toyota Hilux – Bugger 2
BASF – Dear John
Coke – Sky Surfer – 1992
Telecom – Spot the Dog*
Air New Zealand – Being There – 2002
Cherry Coke – Drummer Audition
Air NZ – Band
Air NZ – Fishing
Air New Zealand – Grandfather
Instant Kiwi – Exam
Cadbury Roses – Goldilocks* (Ambience Entertainment)
Westpac Trust Helicopter
Levis Red Tab
Uncle Toby’s Le Snak – Monkey Business
Hyundai Baby Restless

Tony Williams is one of the senior figures in New Zealand film. Hopefully he’s got a few more artful ads up his sleeve yet. I like his quote in OnFilm in July 2004:

“TVCs don’t give the satisfaction of personal vision in an auteur movie sense but there’s more satisfaction in creating cultural icons that the whole country talks about and loves, than a movie that flops and no-one sees.”

Thanks to John Curnow and Sydney Film Company for the photograph of Tony Williams.

See the Tony Williams YouTube channel.

  • Hey Duncan. Nice work !Tony is a cool guy and nice use of a blog !

  • Hi Duncan, Tony is my dad – and I grew up on his many TV sets. I remember we took home boxes and boxes of Crunchie bars after the train robbery Ad, it took many weeks of daily bars to finish the lot!
    Well done in a nice Blog!

  • stokkard

    Very Very nice information here… Thanks

  • darryl richards

    hi Tony i had a ball working on the DEAR JOHN tcc in 1980
    im still working as a spfx cordanator and runing F.X. Contracting Co Ltd

  • Kaye

    As a NZ teacher of English, I am always on the look-out for NZ content for senior English classes. Is there any chance someone could convince Tony to produce a CD/DVD of iconic ‘kiwi’ ads for use in a kiwi classroom? Here’s hoping…

  • kathy robson

    Tony I remember seeing a chocolate bar with the slogan “Bugger” on it. Maybe you can incorporate that into one of your ads

    Just a thought

    Kathy Robson

  • Tony

    With regards to the ‘Bugger’ ad for Toyota, was it necessary to protect the word Bugger? That word was used daily in Australia by everyone. Good reading, ta.

  • tony williams

    Thanks for the page Duncan. You might like to add most recent ad, ‘Hyundai Baby Restless’ . 2006 Fair Go award winner.

    Reply to Kaye, English teacher – I did provide the NZ Film Archives with a DVD of many of the historic Ads I have made since 1970 which includes interviews and so forth. Not sure if they lend it out but might be worth a try.

    Hi Darryl – glad your still working.

  • Duverger

    Hi Tony,I guess you have probably been asked this many times,but i was just wondering if i could somehow get a copy of the “Crunchie Train Robbery”?

  • Tony Williams

    The best way to access the Crunchie Train Robbery is by YouTube. Do a search for Tony Williams.

    Thanks for the interest

  • Thanks Tony.

  • I love your Toyota paticularly the dog saying ‘Bugger’

  • peter

    Hi, can you tell me where i can access the rest of the lyrics please and what key the song is played in

  • Hi Tony, I have never seen the old Crunchie advert. It would be a great idea for Cadbury’s to relaunch a few nostalgic adverts as they would stand out and create buzz. Even though they look dated, it would create a sense of history and add an iconic edge to the brand.

    I might even watch it again…


  • sam mann

    Hi Tony, I remember another Cruchie Bar add taken after its predecessor. I dont think it was as popular as the great train add. Which is why only a handful can remember the add. The add was a sci fi skit out of the Star Wars theme. Where the hero and villain were dualing it out with Crunchis Bars that were like Light you remember? and did you take part in directing it. It would be great to see it again…child hood memories. Thanks Sam 🙂

  • Urlys

    Hi Tony
    Great to find your web site.Don’t know how to contact you directly but thought you might like to know that your old friend John Mitchell departed this world 1st May 3 years ago.We often wondered what became of you and loved your ads.I have just spent time with his 96 year old mother.I remember that white Xmas we had in London in 69! How time flies.
    Wishing you all the best. Urlys

  • Robin Hagen

    A very impressive body of original and inspired work. I had no idea that one person was responsible for directing all these.

    Found this site while looking for the Crunchy ad to use a picture in a presentation on Organisational Maturity – you know – “life’s a whole long journey”. I think this ad and other are so much part of Kiwi culture that even the younger ones (20’s – 30’s)will get it. At least I hope so.

  • selwyn

    that stars wars ad would be great to see ,as i was one of the freezing little indians in it.!!!!

  • Doug Moroney

    Hi Tony. I don’t think we ever met.
    I caught a glimpse of you one day
    at Colenso Auckland, deep in conversation
    with my ” Creative partner “, and the
    guilty look on his face was priceless.
    Largely due to the caste system in place in those days, any ” Art Director “, whether they had come up with the idea, and even all the script,
    ( Which happened in this case, I assure
    you ) was destined to virtual non-recognition. WW2? The Korean War?
    Come on, the grunt is toting a 1970’s
    portable cassette player!
    I have written the true story about
    the creation of this TVC, and if you’re
    interested, feel free to contact me.
    Yours sincerely, Doug Moroney.

    • Tessa

      Hi Doug,
      I’m helping organise a show that I’d like to include you in…can you please send me your email address?

  • Andre Sidler

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for all the great ads. Iconic and inspiring with lots of memories for kiwis growing up in he 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

    I am trying to track down the lyricist or copyright owner of the Cadbury’s Crunchie Bar Train Robbery ad of 1975.

    Would you know how best to ascertain this information?
    Does anyone else know how to track down this information? I have tried many avenues with no success.

    Many thanks ahead for any leads.

    Yours Sincerely


    • Doug Moroney

      Andre, it was written ( I believe ) by Roger MacDonnell of Colenso Wellington. The music ( I believe ) was by Murray Grindlay, who may have sung it as well.

  • jack dunkley

    the crunchie ad is my favourite ad ever on tv, and you forgot to put the words for the second verse 😛

  • James Barton-Ginger

    Hi Tony,

    This one comes a bit left field – however, here goes!!

    I am currently a student at the NZ Film School in Wellywood and am looking to do a short 5 minute doc on you and the Toyota ad….. pondering in my head the concept of “How Tony Williams ‘Buggered’ the Toyota Hilux Ad”;)….call it a draft!!

    My passion and desire is to one day ‘pick up the ball & follow your lead’…..but there’s a long way to top & my journey is just beginning.

    Would love to hear back and mull over some ideas…if you are willing?

    Hope you are well.



  • Zakk

    I’m not sure if many ads inspired the public consciousness as much as the Hilux ‘Bugger’ ad.

    I have a video of driving through burned out hillsides after a bush fire near the top of the South Island burned it all out and someone had craftily inscribed “BUGGER!” on one of the torched hillsides. Hard case!

  • Steve

    I’m not sure if this is the right place to ask but I am really trying hard to find an old commercial from the early-mid 70’s for Atlantic Petrol. Tony did several but the particular one I want shows a group of motor cyclists rounding a bend, and the jingle goes… “Now’s the time,
    to pick up your life, rise up and go away
    Pickup the shackles and ride for tomorrow today…
    Start out at the big-A station
    Atlantic is across the nation”, The NZ Film Archive have it but can’t release a copy. I would really love to see this on Youtube.