Category Archives: Ad Stories

Don’t Clown Around with Advertising

When I was in college my advertising professor espoused this gem: “Never distort the human face in an ad…it freaks people out and won’t do anything good for your brand.”

I like to believe this was a lesson hard learned from years of agencies using clowns in their ads. Thinking they were employing a light-hearted, fun mascot to sell their products, instead the Admen found they were spooking their would-be clients!

I see the discovery playing out like this:

“Say, Hank, our new ads aren’t working as well as as we predicted.  Do you have any thoughts on this?”

candy clown

shudder gif

There isn’t any use in denying it, clowns freak folks out. But why?

Once again, the crack research team at Aunt Mary Industries was on the case.*

Turns out, our discomfort could be thanks to everyone’s favorite “I’m trying to sound smart” topic of conversation: the uncanny valley. The theory of the uncanny valley is objects that appear to look human, but just miss the mark, create an uneasy feeling in people. It turns out we are really good at sussing out tiny, non-verbal signals and if something we are beholding is not quite right, it results in a eerie, uncomfortable vibe. This is typically noted in human-like robots and early motion capture animation. You know how every Christmas you shrink back from the odd faces of Polar Express? That’s uncanny valley!

While clowns are (supposedly) human, the unchanging, made-up expression is likely what gives us the heebie-jeebies. As humans heavily rely on our vision for information about our environment, we glean a lot of clues from the facial expressions of those we interact with.  The baked-in smile of a clown unnerves us as something not quite on the up and up.

Now that we know the why, let’s get some more of the what: (I was going to make a clown car reference here, but I’m trying to be above such things)

schlitz clown

 

 

Everyone’s favorite clown is a drunk clown! Nobody’s favorite clown is one who just realized he’s out of booze. “When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer…and when you’re out of beer, Jingles gets very mean.”

 

 

 

koolaid clown

 

cigarette clown

 

 

 

 

Kool-Aid Man’s usually welcoming and friendly wink takes on a slightly sinister tone in this ad. “Oh NO! This masked and apparently unhinged person didn’t put anything into your beverage. No, I’m not sweating…(wink)”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey there, sexy clown man!  Was Camel testing the idea that anyone looks cooler when smoking?

This ad alone could create a mandela effect that Ted Bundy went to clown college.

 

 

 

 

business clown

 

 

 

 

 

When ICP’s Management team checks in while touring.  Nothing like the open road to make you rethink your life’s choices, huh, Frank?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Research Team is me + google

When Frozen Vegetables were Fancy

In 1912 Clarence Birdseye, taxidermist and naturalist, was working in Labrador, Canada, enjoying the temperate climate of -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Birdseye took to ice fishing and discovered the fish he caught froze almost instantly as it hit the frigid air. What’s more, when thawed, the fish tasted fresh! Clarence learned this flash freezing created small ice crystals which preserved the meat without destroying the cells. This was a far cry better than contemporary freezing methods that were costly and left frozen foods mealy and unappetizing.

Birdseye, back at home in New York City, went to work to recreate this flash freezing process. In 1927 he applied for a patent for a new food freezing machine and soon after got to selling his new and improved frozen foods.

What seems crazy to our modern palate is that, at the time, frozen food was seen as a posh culinary choice. The 1920’s and ‘30’s hostesses proudly announced to her guests she was serving frozen foods at her dinner party. At the time, only those who could afford freezers could store the products which also cost more due to the needed temperature control from production to travel to storage in local shops. Birdseye began leasing grocery stores special freezers to display his products. All this lead to frozen fish and veggies being seen as fine dining.

Birdseye’s companies started advertising “June peas as gloriously green as any you will see next summer” which seems a tad lengthy, though totally delightful.

Post WWII people began buying freezers for their homes, making frozen foods more accessible to the masses. Food companies began offering frozen pizzas and eventually the classic TV dinner.

freezer

In the 1950s, Birds Eye, now owned by General Foods, introduced its popular slogan, “Sweet as the moment when the pod went POP”

peas pop ad

In 1969, Birds Eye made history as it aired the first color TV commercial to run in the U.K., showcasing those peas in all their technicolor glory.

And, because we all love those vintage food ads, here you go:

peas adman birds eye

 

Lysol will Save Your Failing Marriage, You Filthy, Filthy Woman

Gather ’round, Mature Adults, for another moment in Aunt Mary’s Advertising Storytime! Fluff the cushions on the fainting couch and prepare to clutch your pearls, because we are about to get personal.

From roughly the turn of the century to the 1960’s the makers of Lysol touted their product to not only clean your house, but to also save your marriage.

Ladies, are you having issues with your husband? Is he staying out too late? Withholding affection? Perhaps that last pregnancy made him a bit jumpy? Lysol is here to help! Not only does it clean your sinks, but is the key to marital harmony if used as a feminine douche. (I’ll let you take a moment to breath through that)

lysol door

Yes. The folks behind Lysol told women that the problems in their relationships are likely due to pregnancy and/or the crotch rot. The language used in the ads was a brilliant combination of negging and subtext. Evidently everybody knew the term “feminine hygiene” meant birth control, but thanks to strict moral laws prohibiting even the discussion of contraception, they couldn’t just come out and say it, but boy howdy did they get close!

lysol calendar

“We can’t tell you it’s birth control, because birth control is illegal, but…yeah…it’s birth control.”

Forget that most of these men were suffering from shell shock due to two world wars and a crippling economic depression. You are obviously the problem and if you really cared you would hose acid where the sun don’t shine.

The makers put out years of print ads encouraging women to use it as a spermicide, and (in my opinion) a combat to STIs. This practice was likely worse than nothing. Used as a contraceptive it was useless and obviously also harmed women’s bodies.

lysol lady

It all ended when the pill came out.

Let’s Shelf this Idea -More PR Spin

It’s a charming characteristic of old houses, one that folks on HGTV demand and MLS listings proudly announce – Built In Bookshelves!

But why is this a thing?

In the 1920’s and 1930’s book sales began seriously lagging and book publishers started to seriously freak out. How could they get more people to buy more books?

e-b-heart

Enter our old friend, inventor of modern PR, Edward Bernays! Uncle Eddie was hired by a group of book publishers and given one mission: make buying books cool.

The first thing he did was hire public people to espouse the importance of a private library. Only the coolest, smartest, best dancers with rock hard butts read. You read too, right?

Then (my favorite!) he urged architects designing the popular kit homes to include built-in bookshelves in the plans. ‘“Where there are bookshelves,” Bernays reasoned, “there will be books.”

It worked! Book sales took off. Next time you walk into a charming Sears Kit Bungalow that has built-in bookshelves, take a moment to give props to Ed!

 

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Gather ’round, kids, it’s time for a story…2017 style!

It may be one of the most hackneyed phrases in our culture, spouted off when someone hands over a 6-pack of beer or the topic of herpes comes up: Yep, It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

But where did this slogan come from? It’s a new year and Aunt Mary is in a giving mood, so let’s roll!

“The gift that keeps on giving” was first seen as a tagline in a print ad for Victor “talking machines” (AKA Victrola or Phonograph) in 1925 and was registered as a trademark in 1927. 

rca-ad

Victor was the leader in the emerging home-entertainment business from its incorporation in 1901. Not only did Victor make the machines that play music, it also sold the records that were made through a proprietary technique. Additionally, Victor made exclusive deals with the most famous musicians pressing special “Red Seal” albums. Not only did this improve sales, but it  also created a “third party endorsement” hinting that the musicians trusted Victor alone to record their music with quality and high standards. rca-all-the-music

RCA bought controlling interest in Victor in 1926 and continued using the slogan in advertisements for radios and record players for decades after. victrolia-in-surgery

The tagline has since been used in dozens of campaigns, including ads for blood and organ donation and subscriptions to Sports Illustrated Magazine.

Be sure to contact me with suggestions or questions. Let me know about your favorite and least ads!

It’s Great Advertising, Charlie Brown!

You guys, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is on TONIGHT! What’s more, this is 50th anniversary and I’m totally geeking out. I love “Great Pumpkin.” It’s sweet and classic and they say “tricks or treats.” But there is another reason why I’m so fond of the show, watching “Great Pumpkin” is where I realized that maybe I enjoyed advertising more than the average kid.

You see, for me Peanuts holiday specials and their years-long sponsor, Dolly Madison, (makers of fine snack cakes) are inextricably linked. 1980’s Aunt Mary greeted the Dolly Madison ads as a welcome part of the show, an old friend that was as much a part of the tradition as every pumpkin in the patch or ghost costume.  Even now when I watch a Peanuts show I have a deep sadness that they no longer run the sponsor card for Dolly Madison. “Can’t they just add it in for nostalgia’s sake?” I think, even though I know they can’t.

When “Great Pumpkin” first aired in the 1960’s, the opening sequence included a shout-out to their sponsors. The nod was edited out for later viewings, though Dolly Madison continued sponsoring the show into the 1980’s.

Dolly Madison used the Peanuts characters in their advertising and packaging from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Hostess, makers of Dolly Madison cakes, announced plans to stop producing snack cakes in 2012, though subsequent communication indicated a plan to relaunch in the future.

Happy watching! May your pumpkin patch be sincere and your rock treats be few.

What’s Happening on Sunday Sunday Sunday?

Aunt Mary’s here to help you make small talk at your next cocktail party or awkward family dinner! Instead of politics or Game of Thrones, fill that weird dead air with this little tidbit: Hey! Did you know the “Sunday Sunday Sunday!” from those old school Monster Truck ads actually had a purpose?

That, ma’ friends, is called an icebreaker.

Jan Gabriel was the voice of auto racing (and later Monster Truck) radio and TV ads from the late 1960’s to the 1980’s and the originator of everybody’s favorite cliche tag line. He had been working as a motor sport track announcer in the Chicago area when the US 30 dragstrip in Hobart Indiana wanted to get the word out that they were open on (wait for it) Sunday. Gabriel believed the announcer was part of the show and he was sick and tired of boring announcers. His signature style was enthusiastic and loud. When the US 30 track owners needed a unique sound for their radio ads, Gabriel stepped up.

The copy for the ads was dense with a lot of information to cram into a 1 minute radio spot. At the time, commercials were recorded on tape in one take. There was no editing. The announcer had to get it right and any mistakes or running long meant starting over. Gabriel made it work, including the needed Sunday Sunday Sunday!” the advertisers demanded. They were determined to let folks know they were all about exciting family fun on SUNDAY! Originally, it was thought two voices would be needed to get the Sundays in, but Gabriel managed it on his own.

The ideas behind the Sundays is this:

First Sunday is to inform. (Wait, When?)

Second Sunday is to confirm. (I’m free! I could go to that!)

Third Sunday is to excite. (This is going to be awesome!)

Later, Gabriel had a syndicated TV program The Super Chargers Show, which is credited with bringing NASCAR to TV and Monster Trucks into 1980’s popular culture.

Gabriel died in 2010…on a Sunday.