Belfast Telegraph

Eerily prophetic Troubles ad that shocked us in 1993 gets 500,000 views in one day

By Adrian Rutherford

It was the most powerful advert ever to hit our TV screens, and two decades on it still stirs memories of a troubled time in Northern Ireland history.

Entitled I Wanna Be Like You, it told the story of a father and son caught up in the violence of the Seventies and Eighties.

When it first aired on UTV in 1993 it shocked viewers.

Almost 23 years later its legacy endures, with the graphic images never forgotten by anyone who saw them.

When the advert was uploaded to Facebook this week, it received 500,000 views in just 24 hours.

"It became legendary," said David Lyle, the Belfast advertising guru behind the clip.

"People of a certain age still talk about that ad and what an impact it had on them. It has an enormous emotional resonance."

First broadcast on July 7 1993, the advert was commissioned by the NIO and showed a man's journey from paramilitarism to his realisation of the futility of violence.

He neglects his family, ends up in prison and eventually sees his son grow up and follow in his footsteps as a terrorist.

The son loses his life to violence and the advert closes with the image of his father grieving at his grave.

The images are accompanied by a version of the Harry Chapin song Cat's In The Cradle.

David, who is chief executive of LyleBailie International, said security concerns meant filming had to be done outside the province.

"The ad was written by myself and Julie Anne Bailie," he explained.

"This was unlike anything which had ever been made before or put on TV as a paid-for ad. It contained scenes which had never been seen on TV in a commercial break."

The ad included an eerily prophetic image of a gunman opening fire in a bar.

The UFF's Greysteel pub massacre came later in 1993. The following June, six men were shot dead by the UVF at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland.

"Because of the security situation it wasn't safe to film in Northern Ireland," added David.

"We filmed in Glasgow, apart from one scene on the Crumlin Road.

"What we were trying to get across was that terrorism wrecks families.

"I think we knew at the time that it was very strong, that it spoke deeply and powerfully to people.

"We'd been asked to come up with a fitting line to end it. We thought 'Don't suffer it, change it' carried a very profound message. And, of course, the change eventually happened."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph