Watch out, watch out, there’s a Humphrey about!

Humphrey on

Back when milk was delivered to your doorstep, Unigate started up an advertising campaign which may well be one of the first successful branding exercises of the modern age. Red and white stripes, or the phrase ‘watch out, watch out’ still engenders a response from the over thirties.

The advertisements generally featured a celebrity (such as Frank Muir or Arthur Mullard) enjoying a glass of milk. The glass was put to one side as there was something else going on. Then there would be a shout of ‘Watch out, watch out, there’s a Humphrey about!’ A red and white striped straw would appear from outside of the camera shot and the milk would be sucked up. Then when the drinker went back to the glass, it was empty. Shock! The milk was stolen! The precious milk which cannot be replaced!

There was much speculation on who or what the Humphrey was and whether in future adverts we would see him. We didn’t. He remains a mystery and is only identified by his name and the red and white straw.

Humphrey Mug on was an excess of merchandising for this red and white straw which perhaps made more money than the milk itself, who knows? I had a mug like this one (don’t you just love google?) and it was my favourite mug until I broke it by trying to boil some milk in it. This was before microwaves and I put the cold milk in the mug and put that onto the electric hob. Come on, I was only nine!

There were ties, hats, stickers and all sorts. Many of these are now collectable. I found out while researching this post that Humphrey watches were awarded to milkmen as incentives to sell more milk.

The downside of this successful campaign was that it coincided with me gaining a reputation for eating other people’s food. Certain members of my family and school started to say, ‘Watch out, watch out, there’s a Josie about’ and collapse in hilarity as if they were the funniest people in the world. Humph!

Photos linked from

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


2 Responses

  1. Hi, I still have 3 different Humphrey mugs and treasure them dearly. Has anyone else still got some.

  2. I have a Humphrey watch, still in good working order. I’m not sure about them being awarded to milkmen, the one I have was left on the doorstep with the milk.

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