August 28, 2019
A tiny hippo wanders across the living room carpet. (Watch on YouTube)
Empty pint glasses stack up ominously. (Watch on YouTube)
These are the ads of my childhood, back when televisions were square and phones were just for making calls.
So, what made these ads so memorable?
Terrific conceptual thinking? Perhaps – the Oh Henry campaign did take home a Cassies’ Gold in 95’. Or was it the fact that I would sit in front of the TV all weekend? Quite plausible. But the fact is, I don’t think it’s any one thing that led to these ads standing the test of time. Upon deeper reflection, all of these ads deliver against three key factors:
Create a real, emotional connection: The tiny house hippo made me feel excited (and hope such a creature existed). The MADD commercial left me tense and saddened. The Oh Henry, Oh Hungry campaign had me laughing and saying the catch-phrase. All of them successfully elicited a genuine, emotional reaction.
Tell one simple story: The Concerned Children’s Advertisers used the imaginative and absurd to communicate one single message: you shouldn’t believe everything you see in advertising. Even without text, the MADD commercial simply and visually reminds you drinking impairs your ability to drive. And, Oh Henry sought out to own hunger and summed up the story with a single question and answer. Oh hungry?
Deliver at the right time and place: In the mid to late nineties, TV was still king and a key channel for entertainment. These ads were expertly crafted to tell their story in 30 seconds, and took full advantage of your TV’s volume and large-screen to do so. Not to mention, repeated enough in circulation that you could recite them from memory. (For a deeper look at the power of channel and context, check out Safiya Kamani’s excellent piece)
The benefit of taking a trip down memory lane and thinking about the marketing that had an impact on you, is that it can serve as a great reminder of the basic practices that have always been behind memorable advertising. Now in a world where TV is streamed on tablets and phones are used for everything except making calls, it’s still these simple lessons that can help guide your next campaign.