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A Mars A Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play

The strange story of my grandma and a famous slogan.

My grandma died recently. She’d had a good life, and she was ready to go, so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise, or too upsetting. Her funeral service was at the homestead where she’s been living for the last years of her life, with the advantage of being run by a minister who clearly actually knew her. He did a very nice ceremony, with lots of anecdotes, and not doing the usual thing of pretending she was perfect.

He talked of her love of word puzzles, and words and language in general, and how, by way of a competition, she was responsible, as everyone there probably knew, for one of the best known advertising slogans in the UK.

Neither Sam nor I had ever been told, so imagine our amazement in the middle of the funeral to learn that my grandma was the one who created the slogan…

A Mars A Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play

She saved one last big surprise for us there. The story…

The story went that there was a competition. This being before the days of premium rate lines and texting answers that make money for the companies concerned, they wanted it to be difficult. There was a photo of a sunset, and all they told you was the place, and what date it was taken. You had to tell them what time it was taken at. My dad was given the task of finding out what time sunset would have been there on that date, then working out the time zones, and if it was daylight savings here, to get the time in the UK (they wanted UK time, not local time), and presumably arrived at the right answer. The tiebreaker was to write a slogan for Mars bars. She came up with “A Mars A Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play”.

They liked it so much that not only did she win the contest, but they decided to use the slogan.

My cousin Jane thinks they were given the choice of holiday vouchers or royalties, though my dad doesn’t remember that. I suspect it probably wasn’t the case. The slogan was in continual use for 40 years, so if she’d turned down the royalties, I think she’d have died much sooner through kicking herself repeatedly.

Wikipedia’s entry for Mars Bar does discredit the myth that the slogan was written by Murray Walker, though it is quite likely that he was the one responsible for deciding to use it. That in itself is an extra coincidence. Until she had to move into the homestead, Nanna lived her whole life in the same house – in Murray Avenue.

She was always interested in everything – when most people of her age just want to sit quietly and reminice about old times, she was fascinated with our PDAs, and trying out my Tablet PC. I think when that interest finally went, she knew it was time to go.

So, for that one last big surprise, and so much else – thank you Nanna, and goodbye.

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