Classics from the Advertising Archive

Each week we trawl the archives for a classic TV commercial from the recent past.

Stay up-to-date with our latest selections as we post them on social media on Adbrands Facebook, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter

Adbrands Social Media 20th July 2018:

Lynx/Axe "Ideal Woman"
by Bartle Bogle Hegarty (2000).

'The Lynx Effect' campaign – or 'The Axe Effect' as it became in most international markets - was born when Keith Weed, then head of Unilever's Elida Faberge deodorant and fragrance division, realised that the company's well-established men's body spray had ended up being "about as cool as Roger Moore in a safari suit". Clearly a new approach was required, and in 1995 he moved the account to Bartle Bogle Hegarty, arguably London's coolest agency who, among other triumphs, had a decade earlier transformed Levi's jeans into one of the UK's trendiest clothing brands.

The first ads, overseen by BBH creative director Dennis Lewis, adopted the position that a burst of Lynx body spray could transform even the nerdiest of guys into a sex god. An early campaign featuring Jennifer Aniston – then just reaching the peak of her Friends' fame – as one such guy's stay-at-home girlfriend really put the brand on the map in cultural terms. Shortly afterwards, Lewis left, and creative responsibility for the account was bestowed on Rosie Arnold, who was to oversee the business for the next 15 years or so, elevating the brand to stratospheric levels of global success. 'Ideal Woman' was one of the first ads under her management, co-created by her with copywriter Shawn Preston and directed by Paul Goldman.

Rosie Arnold: "One of the nice things about taking over an account aimed at young boys was that I managed to temper the approach, I think; bring more of a female perspective to it. In fact, we were really aiming at the mums just as much as the boys, because in many cases it was the mums who were buying aftershave for their sons. Everyone says 'Oh my God, Lynx smells so awful'. But actually as a mother of two sons myself, my answer would be, 'Have you smelled teenage boys? Because let me tell you, Lynx smells a lot better than most teenage boys'.

"Also I didn't want to do anything that was too sexist. It's a very fine line you tread; especially in today's climate, but even back then. Some of the Lynx campaigns haven't perhaps aged quite as well as others, but the ads I worked on, like this one, are still acceptable today I think because they're affectionate and tongue-in-cheek. Women still laugh at 'Ideal Woman' because we recognise the truth of it. We do say we like certain things that in fact we don't particularly, just because we like a guy.

"We shot the whole thing in Argentina. All the locations were in Buenos Aires, but dressed to look like different countries; even that Tube station scene at the beginning. It was a really complicated shoot, much more so than previous Lynx ads, lots of set-ups, lots of takes, and also lots of languages. It was the first time the client had asked us to do an international ad that could run all over the world. So we shot lots of different versions: in English, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, French...

"Finding the cast was incredibly tough. We had to cast girls that were not only beautiful and could act but could also speak three or four languages. We would do the English version and then say 'Ok, now do it in German… Right, now do it in French', or whatever. Then we did different edits for each of the different markets. We worked out that it was fine to have three or four of the girls subtitled in each version. My idea was that it was like some young guy backpacking around the world in his gap year or whatever, and these were all the different girls he met on his travels.

"Unilever were great, great clients, and we had a really good relationship with them. When you have a really good client, it's wonderful, but also nerve-wracking as a creative because you've got nowhere to hide. You can't make an excuse afterwards, 'Oh the client made us do that'. I think that's what clients don't understand. The more they trust you, the harder you want to work to live up to that trust. All our Lynx clients over the years were great, and as a result I think they got the work they deserved."

Many of the ads that followed over the next decade or so from BBH have also become classics in their own right: 'Getting Dressed' in which a couple wake up in bed and then have to retrieve their various items of clothing all over town, tracing a path back to where they met entirely by chance in supermarket. 'Billions' in which a horde of Amazonian warrior women converge on a beach in the middle of nowhere, summoned by the scent of an ordinary bloke spraying Lynx on himself; and 'Angels', perhaps the last truly great film to-date from BBH, in which beautiful winged angels fall to earth in pursuit of a single guy wearing Lynx.

"Later on, there was certainly a shift in the strategy," says Arnold. "By 2009, 2010, the approach we had been taking started to attract criticism for being a little bit sexist, and perhaps slightly outmoded. Unilever took some flak for it because at the same time the ads for Dove, another of their big brands, were saying something completely different. On one hand, with Dove, you're saying to women, you don't have to be beautiful; and then on the other you're telling boys all these gorgeous women are attainable just by spraying something on yourselves. For a marketeer, you begin to look a little schizophrenic."

'Ideal Woman' made Arnold one of the UK industry's most celebrated creative directors, and earned her a first D&AD Gold Pencil, as well as multiple awards. That same year, Donald Gunn, author of the widely respected Gunn Report creativity survey, compiled a showreel of the 100 Best Ads of the 20th Century as nominated by a roster of the industry's most illustrious names. 'Ideal Woman' is the youngest ad on that list, sitting alongside the likes of Coca-Cola's 'Mountain Top' and 'Mean Joe Greene', Apple's 'Misfits', Levi's 'Launderette' and Guinness 'Surfer'. A classic indeed.

Adbrands Social Media 12th July 2018:

Vim "Prison Visitor"
by Zig Inc (2005).

Household cleaners aren't exactly the most exciting product for an agency to work on, so this brilliantly simple but exceptionally clever spot for Unilever's Vim caused a minor sensation in 2005, winning a cupboard-full of awards, and establishing an international reputation for its creators, independent Canadian agency Zig and director duo the Perlorian Brothers.

Zig had been launched a few years earlier by Andy Macaulay, Elspeth Lynn and Lorraine Tao. Lorraine Tao: "Elspeth and I had worked on a number of brands for Unilever when we were a creative team at Ammirati & Puris, before we started Zig. They were a fantastic client and we did some work there we were all proud of for Vaseline and Sunlight. Not too long after we started Zig, there was a shake-up in the ranks at Ammirati and Unilever, being a creatively driven client, began looking elsewhere. We were extremely fortunate that after only a few meetings, they decided to give us the Vim account without a pitch. It was our first big account and it gave Zig a growth spurt, but the relationship felt like coming home."

The brief for this particular ad was assigned to what was then one of Zig's up-and-coming creative teams, copywriter Aaron Starkman and art director Stephen Leps. Aaron Starkman: "For some strange reason, it seems all cleaning ads are about happy people smiling, laughing and dancing. That couldn't be further from the awful reality. Fact is, cleaning sucks! And those two words were on the brief. I said to my partner Stephen, am I crazy or this cleaning brief really good? The ads for Vim historically were not very creative so it's not surprising that two senior teams passed on the brief, giving us an amazing opportunity.

"Because the brief was so good, I found it easy to come up with ideas. What also helped was using Vim's main competition, Fantastic spray cleaner. I was attempting to clean caked-on pasta sauce with it, and I said to my creative partner Stephen, "I feel this is hopeless, it's like being in a prison". Funny thing was, the idea for 'Prison Visitor' didn't come right at that moment, I thought of it the next day while jamming in the agency's kitchen area.

"By the time we presented to Unilever, we had five really good ideas. Unilever put three into research. Actually I was hoping another spot called 'Shaking Walls' would be the winner, but consumers picked Vim in the research. And so did the stores."

Unilever didn't need any further persuasion, but there were still a few worries for the agency. Lorraine Tao: "The meeting that sticks out in my mind was for the casting. Through the process of casting the mother, Aaron, Stephen and the Perlorian Brothers had added the word 'baby' to her script. It just made the moment for all of us, but we were all a bit nervous because the script had gone through research unscathed and, usually, adding dialogue to a script that's tested well is a no-no. I went to the meeting with Unilever ready to fall on a sword and take it back out but it turned out not to be a difficult sell and looking back on it, we were over-worrying. I think we all just knew how special the spot was and didn't want to mess it up!"

The ad turned out to be a big hit, lifting Canadian sales of Vim by as much as 20% without any other marketing, and Unilever rolled it out to several other countries. It also stormed the awards circuit, winning a ton of awards including a Gold Lion at Cannes. At the time, it was one of Canada's most awarded ads ever. But possibly the biggest honour of all came from Ellen DeGeneres. She aired the spot for free on her daytime US talk show to an audience of millions of potential customers and called it one her favourite ads of all time. What bigger accolade could you wish for?

Adbrands Social Media 6th July 2018:

Heineken "Walk-in Fridge"
by TBWA Neboko (2009).

This week's Classic hails from the Netherlands, but became such a huge hit online - 15 million views in just the first three months - that it was rapidly rolled out around the world, inspiring a deluge of unofficial tributes or spoofs as well as several follow-ups from Heineken itself. The brewer had itself only recently taken the decision to abandon its conservative family-controlled corporate stance and leap into the rapidly consolidating global market with the acquisition of British rival Scottish & Newcastle. Meanwhile at long-time agency TBWA\Neboko, founding creative partners Cor den Boer and Diederick Koopal were handing over to rising stars Jeroen van de Sande and Jorn Kruijsen. The time was clearly right to try something new.

Jeroen van de Sande: "The brief from the client was actually 'We need a hit'. That was basically what they said. Heineken had a very successful series of ads in the Netherlands in the early 2000s, known as the 'Biertje' campaign. The payoff had different characters asking 'Biertje?' which means something like, 'You wanna beer?' That was really successful, but after that they lost track a little bit and did a few ads that were not so popular. So eventually they said, 'You know, we need another hit, another audience favourite.' For ourselves, we defined the mission as to stay as close to the beer as possible. We wanted it to be something that was really about the beer, about the love of beer, about the love that only guys can have for a good beer.

"Our creative director Cor den Boer had just moved into a new house and he had one of those walk-in closets in the bedroom. When he had housewarming parties he noticed how all his wife's girlfriends would react in the same way. 'Oh my God! A walk-in closet! Oooohhhhh!' For some reason, walk-in closets were just a thing at that time. There was that show 'Sex in the City' on the TV, and the walk-in closet was like every woman's dream. Cor said, 'We need to make the male version of a walk-in closet: a walk-in fridge'. That seemed like a very appropriate way to compare women's passions with men's passions.

"We presented about 10 different scripts but from the get-go we as an agency really loved this one. We told them 'We absolutely think this one, the Walk-in Fridge, this is going to be the hit that you're looking for'. But they wanted to do some research, and the outcome was that the research agency thought this particular idea fitted Amstel – one of the other beers in the portfolio - better than Heineken. So 'Yeah, unfortunately, we can't do this for Heineken, this is an Amstel commercial.' We said, 'Come on, that's crazy, this is all about class and style and pride in the beer. That whole fridge is packed just with Heineken beer. There's no Amstel in there.'

"We had discussions back and forth for something like two or three months. And then eventually the marketing director said 'Ah, screw the results of this research. We all love the idea. We're just going to do it.' They had like four quadrants in a diagram to show which beer fitted with what kind of idea, and he said, 'You know, we just move those arrows a little bit and we get the idea to fit Heineken. Screw it, let's do it.'

"Bart Timmer directed the ad. The funny thing is that it was actually produced as a local commercial for the Netherlands only. But then it became such a huge viral hit on the internet - it was one of the most viewed YouTube commercials of the year - that all the marketing directors from all the different Heineken regions started calling Amsterdam to say 'We want to air that spot too'. It was just such an international idea. People in Asia, people in South America, everybody got the idea, everybody loved it. So in the end it got aired in something like 45 different countries. Luckily we'd also shot the ad in English as well as Dutch as a stand-by for ad shows and the like, so it was pretty easy to adapt.

"For Heineken it was proof that it was actually possible to do an international campaign. Before that every local market had their own campaign, which is of course extremely expensive. They thought 'We can't do an international campaign because Heineken means something completely different in all those different regions.' They always believed that the cultural differences between one country and another were too big. They always thought it couldn't be done, and through this commercial they accidentally discovered that it could!"

Adbrands Social Media 29th June 2018:

Knorr Sidekicks "Salty"
by DDB Canada (2009).

The viral video phenomenon really came of age at the end of the Noughties. For advertisers it created, probably for the first time, an environment where a marketing concept that had clicked with viewers in the initial TV ad could then be amplified and extended across a series of subsequent films at comparatively low cost. Since these could be distributed online virtually for free, without the high-stakes cost of a TV campaign, it gave agencies the freedom to be looser and far more imaginative. More than a few internet heroes were born out of such a environment.

One such was "Salty", a forlorn salt shaker who suddenly finds himself without a purpose in life because Unilever's Knorr range of easy-to-make Sidekicks side-dishes were pre-seasoned. The first ad - and especially its sad little star - was such a hit with viewers that agency DDB Canada was given the freedom to make three further spots. These little masterpieces had almost nothing to do with selling packets of Knorr Sidekicks but strengthened the bond between the brand character and his audience. The project was originally assigned to creative team David Ross and Shelley Lewis; Paul Wallace later replaced Lewis on the account. Andrew Simon was executive creative director.

Andrew Simon: "Salty was born when Knorr told us they were launching a Reduced Sodium version of some of their Sidekicks products. Instead of just focusing on the good news aspect of the news, we looked at it a different way. Who *wouldn't* take it so well? After all, it was really a rejection of salt."

Paul Wallace "In the original script, the salt and pepper shakers were an old fashioned, kitschy, flea market, farmer & wife set. However, the client took issue with the farmer & wife shaker set. Essentially, they were uncomfortable with the thought of some old flea market relic in a commercial for a modern, forward thinking brand like Knorr. We briefly considered using those hugging ghost shakers that were already available commercially, but negotiations with the designer collapsed. This was more or less when I got involved. For me, based on the script, the character was a loser, like Peanuts' Charlie Brown - big, prematurely balding head with low slung ears... Anyway, we engaged the very talented Big Shot Toyworks, and eventually landed on the character of Salty as you know him."

Directed by David Hicks, the original commercial showed Salty forlornly surveying a dish of freshly prepared Knorr Sidekicks risotto and realising his time is done. He walks off into the rain outside to the sound of a plaintive Michael Bolton ballad. Eventually, he dips his head in sorrow, and instead of tears, tiny little streams of salt pour from his eyes...

PW: "The commercial was an instant success. Sidekicks were flying off supermarket shelves across Canada. People simply couldn't get enough of Salty." Clearly, more could be done with this adorable little character.

AS: "We took it one step further with a series of online videos... and this was before online videos were really a thing. All three were about Salty searching for acceptance and love, trying to pick up the pieces of his life." In these, Salty tries to find new purpose to his life; he adopts a life of crime, with disastrous consequences; briefly takes up residence in a bikers' cafe; and finally attempts to console himself with the new sensation of internet dating. Chatroulette had just taken off, and the agency actually set up Salty to pop up for a few surprise sessions.

And Salty's success wasn't just confined to the original product. AS: "In the initial presentation, we talked about the idea of creating actual salt and pepper shakers with the characters of Salty and Pep. Our clients at the time thought it was cute but were really worried that they'd be stuck with a closet-full of a few thousand salt and pepper shakers. After seeing the final character renderings, they fell in love with our characters and decided on making 30,000 sets, 25,000 of which were made available for a 'Buy 3 Sidekicks packs, get Salty and Pep for free' sales promotion. In 25 days, all 25,000 sets of shakers were sold out and were selling on eBay for $200."

Like most internet sensations, Salty burned brightly for a few months before finally fizzling out. Yet his appeal lasts to this day, even if for some people it was just all too emotional. AS: "Months later, I presented the campaign in a new business presentation to another company. After the lights came up, I saw one of the clients flat out sobbing. We didn't win the business." Ah, Salty... Come back, all is forgiven!

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