Home :: A Mars A Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play

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

Mars Stack

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.

10 thoughts on “A Mars A Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play

  1. Hello,

    I’m hoping you can assist with getting to the bottom of this mystery!

    My Nan has also told me she won this competition (and won £100 and a confirmation letter)She’s won plenty of other competitions for slogans etc but it seems a few people are claiming to have created this including a ‘william dagnall’ on wikipedia.

    I’ve contacted Mars to try and find out the truth but apparently they have no record of the competition or how the slogan was created.

    Any help would be appreciated.


    • Interesting. I can’t really confirm much, as I only have other people’s tellings of the story to go by, and it was a long time ago. The fact that my dad remembers so much of the actual competition question seems to make it more likely to be true, but I’m not sure even he would be certain it was the competition that resulted in that slogan – that long ago, it’s probably remembered more by the retelling than the actual events.

      William Dagnall doesn’t appear to have much backing – he was added to the Wikipedia article in an anonymous revision dated 22:11, 3 January 2009, removing the claim that Murray Walker came up with it. The only citation is to the old Guardian article that claims it was Murray. My Nanna did live on Murray Avenue, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a coincidence!

      I guess it’s quite possible that more than one person submitted the same slogan – if they gave any hints to make a daily Mars sound like a healthy snack, it perhaps wouldn’t be too much of a unique idea to go from Apple to Mars.

  2. Hi, I am also a nana, in my early sixties, and I entered a competition in late ’50’s to complete the slogan.. a mars a day…… so, YES, I completed it by adding …helps you work, rest and play and sent it off with relevant enclosures as requested. If memory serves me clearly, the competition was in the Bunty or Judy of that era, prob 1958/9. My family are browned off listening to me over the years telling this story, and claiming ownership, hense my browsing and finding your story. They just laugh at my ‘ramblings’ but IT IS TRUE…. STRANGE, WOULD LOVE TO COME TO THE BOTTOM OF IT. MARS SHOULD BE ABLE TO THROW SOME LIGHT ON IT, THEY’RE SUCH A BIG COMPANY. Come on Mars, try harder !!!!!!! p.s. DANIELLE, can you confirm if your nan is referring to late 1950’s when she did the competition ? Thanks

  3. I don’t know if you will read this, but I came across this article by chance as I was trying to to some research about “a mars a day helps you work rest and play” as I also knew an old lady who said that she invented it (honestly, i’m not trolling) but with the same story of a competion. Although Wikipedia’s entry does does discredit the myth that the slogan was written by Murray Walker, I believe his autobiography claims he did, (not that i’ve read the whole thing).

  4. Well, I have just completed a search for the slogan A Mars a day etc, because my wifes grandad also claimed he was the one who came up with it, He was called John Clegg and he lived in Burnley, he actually recieved Free holiday voucher for Butlins, for a family of 4. Everything else seems to add up as everyone else is saying a comp in the 50’s60’s. Come on Mars who is the real author.

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