The received wisdom is that adverts should above all be memorable, by hook or by crook.

The ‘Go Compare’ opera singer might therefore be regarded as high art, of a sort, even if he makes you want to put a brick through your television set each time the latest ad comes on.

A decade ago that status was held by Chicken Tonight, the sauce brand that remains best known for its infuriating earworm of a jingle and the dignity-stripping dance performed by the ‘talent’ in its adverts. You don’t even need to hear the tune to get annoyed by it – remembering is enough.

These days the brand is as stale as a month-old loaf – a fact tacitly conceded by Unilever in yesterday’s confirmation that Chicken Tonight will be axed from the portfolio as soon as a buyer can be found, for it and the UK end of Ragu.

The news was certainly timely, coming in the week that Unilever splashed out a few billion dollars on Tresemmé and VO5 maker Alberto Culver. Unilever remains the dominant player in ice cream thanks to brands like Magnum and Ben Jerry’s. But elsewhere its food portfolio is characterised by retro/nostalgic icons like Marmite, Bovril and Colman’s, alongside funky student favourites such as Peperami and the mighty Pot Noodle.

In that context, Chicken Tonight – memorably, if perhaps harshly, described by one Grocerite today as a “chav classic” – clearly didn’t fit the mix.

This week’s developments suggest Unilever regards haircare and smellies as the future. Certainly boss Paul Polman is looking further ahead than whether or not to have chicken, er, this evening.

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