As a marketer, you may always be looking forward, trying to come up with new ways to present your company's product or service.
But you can find plenty of inspiration by looking backward, too.
Got milk? Whassup? Where's the beef? Think small. Those are all successful ad campaigns from decades past. By analyzing them and other examples of great advertising, you can identify the elements that made them appealing and memorable. Then, you can apply the takeaways to your own creative efforts.
Here's an example.
Stan Freberg's 1967 commercial for Sunsweet Prunes is one of my favorite TV spots of all time. Take a look at it here or above.
If you like it, too, spend a few minutes to break it down. Why does it work for you? What makes it unique? How does its style impact its effectiveness?
A few thoughts.
1) Consider the relatively conservative advertising environment at the time this first aired. Before Freberg, satire was rarely used in commercials, if at all. Throughout his career, he lampooned advertising itself, poking fun at its many conventions. In the Sunsweet spot, that skewering took the form of the disagreeable consumer, the over-the-top announcer and the melodramatic tagline.
Takeaway: When you start, as Freberg did, with the understanding that most consumers don't take advertising literally and certainly not as seriously as brands do, you give yourself great freedom to create for your audience without restraints. You won't be bound by what's "normal" for any marketing channel.
2) Freberg was not afraid to bite the hand that fed him! For nearly half of the commercial, his stuffy, ascot-wearing antagonist expressed disdain for the product, and not in a subtle way. The fact that the character referred to Sunsweet Prunes as "disgusting" was not only groundbreaking, but it was creatively brilliant.
Takeaway: By insulting the prunes, Freberg was giving voice to what his audience was already thinking. He didn't try to ignore or hide the fact that the product has pits and wrinkles; he acknowledged it - in a very funny way. By telling the truth - even if it's an ugly or uncomfortable truth - you earn consumer trust. And by making fun of the product, you can rouse empathy and even encourage people to rally behind it.
3) At 48 seconds into the commercial, the prune eater sniffs. In a late 1960s context, that sniff could have easily been seen as a mistake. In Freberg's spot for Jacobsen's Lawnmowers, a homeowner being asked about the grass in his front yard interrupts the interviewer three times so realistically that the audio is affected in a negative (but intentional) way. And in his Cheerios commercial, the woman being questioned on screen mistakes the cereal for a headache remedy.
Takeaway: The sniff, the interrupting and the confusion are all very human. They added a sense of realism and a unique twist that was notably odd for TV commercials of the era. What "mistakes" or human characteristics can you add to or leave in your advertising? Think of how they might draw attention or differentiate your work and how they might surprise your audience.
4) Visually, the Sunsweet commercial is just one steady shot with two quick right pans, two quick left pans and a product shot at the end. No fancy set. No special effects. No animation. The remarkable writing and perfect performances are allowed to shine even brighter because of the sparse presentation. That style makes it easy for viewers to focus on what the characters are saying and retain the message.
Takeaway: A big budget and elaborate concept don't automatically produce a great campaign. As Stan Freberg showed in so much of his advertising work, a fresh idea executed well can produce effective, memorable work that we can all learn from.
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