Sunsmart campaign slip slop slaps into national archive

November 16, 2023 BY

Iconic: Sid the Seagull was the star of the Slip, Slop, Slap advertising campaign launched in 1981. Photo: SUPPLIED

THE catchy Slip, Slop, Slap! advertising jingle from the 1980s has been recognised as one of the quintessential sounds of Australia.

The ad campaign first ran in 1981 featuring Sid the Seagull, who reminded beachgoers to slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

It’s become the longest running advert in Australian history according to Phillip Adams, who created the jingle with composer Peter Best.

“Sometimes we’re able to use the devil’s tools for good purpose, and it certainly took off,” Adams said.

“Mind you, melanoma is such a vast problem in our part of the world, so it has special resonance.”

Slip, Slop, Slap! has been widely credited with changing people’s attitudes to sun protection over the last several decades.

Indeed, many Australians can probably thank Adams, now aged 84, for improving their health more generally as he also wrote the classic 1980s Life. Be in it. campaign that encouraged people to get active.

Like many ads, Slip, Slop, Slap! used humour to deliver a tough message, said Adams, with Sid the Seagull part of an “outpouring of alliteration”.

The jingle was made for what was then The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria and has been chosen for the Sounds of Australia registry in the National Film and Sound Archive.

The 2023 additions also include Howzat by Sherbet, fronted by lead singer Daryl Braithwaite, while The Seekers’ anthemic I Am Australian has also been selected, following the death of lead singer Judith Durham in 2022.

As for one of Australia’s most influential ad writers and broadcasters, Adams said it’s great that the jingle has been recognised, and he’s glad the campaign had an effect.

“I’m very pleased to play a tiny part in saving others from unnecessary death,” he said.

Ironically, the man who got Australia to Slip, Slop, Slap! has never needed suncreen, or a hat – his radio show airs at 10pm and he never goes out in the sun.

“I am a nocturnal creature like a vampire bat, I work at nights and I avoid the sun in all its manifestations,” Adams said.

The 2023 Sounds of Australia are: Anvil Chorus P. C. Spouse 1927, Sweet Nell of Old Drury Nellie Stewart 1931, The Death of a Wombat Ivan Smith (author) and George S. English (composer) with ABC (broadcaster) 1959, I Only Came To Say Goodbye Wilma Reading 1961, The Loved One The Loved Ones 1966, Howzat Sherbet 1976, Menstruation Blues Robyn Archer 1977, Harry Williams and the Country Outcasts Harry and Wilga Williams 1979, Slip Slop Slap jingle, Phillip Adams (writer) and Peter Best (composer) Cancer Council Victoria 1981, I am Australian various 1997, Concerto of the Greater Sea Joseph Tawadros 2012.