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Throwback Thursdays

Stranger Things Have Happened, But Not Often: the Reintroduction of a Failed Soda

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On April 23, 1985, the Coca-Cola Company debuted New Coke, replacing its flagship and market-leading soda, then called Coke.

Blind taste tests, a market research strategy employed by chief rival Pepsi, indicated that consumers overwhelmingly preferred the sweeter New Coke. So confident were Coke executives in the new flavor, they discontinued production of Coke the same week that New Coke was release. They evaluated releasing New Coke as a brand extension to Coke, but with bottlers were already pushing back after the launch of Cherry Coke, they preferred to shut down Coke production. New Coke’s introduction was an epic mis-read of consumer sentiment, and the original flavor was brought back to store shelves quickly, with production restarting just 79 days after New Coke’s launch.

This was not just a footnote in the summer of 1985. It was a sonic boom within the Cola Wars, evidenced by ABC News’ Peter Jennings interrupting daytime soap “General Hospital” with the special report. Read More

Earth Day (b. April 22, 1970)

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This past Monday, April 22, marked the 49th Earth Day. The evergreen idea was led by environmental activists Denis Hayes and Wisconsin Senator Gaylor Nelson. But without branding help from a Mad Man in the Copywriting Hall of Fame, it was doomed for a fragile existence.

Julian Koenig, who died in 2014, was the copywriter behind many legendary ad campaigns including VW’s “Think Small” and “Lemon,” Timex’s “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” and the naming of Earth Day.

Following his 1941 graduation from Dartmouth, Koenig did not take a straight path to advertising. He served a few years in the Army, spent a short time at Columbia Law, worked for the Yonkers Indians, a semi-pro baseball team, and set out to write novels. But then he stumbled in to advertising, and after impressing founder Bill Bernbach with a spec ad, he landed at Madison Avenue’s legendary Doyle Dane Bernbach in the 1950s. The spot that got him hired which never ran, was for Hires Root Beer. It featured a little boy holding a bottle of the soda with caption ”the finest beer I never tasted.” Read More

March Madness: A Slam Dunk for Advertisers

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Roughly 100 million people will tune in to the 68-team March Madness college basketball tournament this year. Played across three weeks, in 14 cities, from the first play-in games in Dayton, OH, to the Final Four in Minneapolis, fans, cities, colleges, and broadcast partners all benefit from the plentiful madness.

The first NCAA basketball tournament tipped off 80 years ago, in 1939, and Oregon came out on top of the eight-team event, beating Ohio State in the final game, 46-33. In 1951, the field doubled to 16, and in 1975 doubled again to 32 teams. It was not until 1985 that 64 teams made the dance. The current 68-team format was adopted in 2011. Read More

Lincoln and Washington: Still Marketing Gold

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Presidents’ Day weekend is intended to honor both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and provide a three day break. More of us know it as a long weekend filled with mattress and appliance sales.

The origin of Presidents’ Day dates back to the 1880s, when the February 22nd celebration of Washington’s birthday was first named a federal holiday. Disneyland capitalized on the day off, releasing a print ad using cartoon characters playing the fife and drum to invite families to spend the day at Disneyland. Read More

I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Wiener…Mobile Driver

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Since German immigrants Oscar and Gottfried Mayer opened their small meat market on the north side of Chicago in 1883, they have been leaders in many forms of advertising and communications – including sponsorship of Polka bands in the 1890s, label enhancements, radio and TV ads, and for the last 83 years, the iconic Wienermobile.

Oscar was known to have had a flair for marketing, and launched early brand awareness of the meat market by sponsoring polka bands in German neighborhoods throughout Chicago, and with a sponsorship of a German exhibit in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Read More

Dick Wolf’s Journey from Toothpaste to Police Procedurals

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The clypd holiday party a few weeks ago featured an 11-question TV trivia quiz, befitting of a company rooted in the TV business. One of the questions: name five detectives from any season of the Law & Order franchise. Participants had more than 30 names to choose from, an indication of the longevity of the franchise.

As I Googled the series the next day to get reacquainted with more actors’ names, I learned more about its creator, Dick Wolf. Coincidentally, it’s also Wolf’s birthday today- he was born on December 20, 1947.

Dick Wolf’s parents met while working at NBC, and his father later went in to advertising, as a producer. Dick took the opposite route, starting out in advertising as a copywriter at agency Benton & Bowles and later switching to TV. Read More

Retailers and Advertisers Flock Around Rockefeller’s Annual Tree Lighting

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Earlier this month, it was warm enough, and quiet enough, to sit outside on the patio at Rockefeller Center, and enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day. Just days later, the sidewalks would be crowded with tourists and locals as well, gathered to take in a view of the giant Rockefeller Center tree.

The lighting of the tree is a shiny gift not just for tourists and TV viewers, but also for retailers. And it is a huge money maker for networks and broadcasters.

Networks love holiday TV specials for gathering multiple generations around the TV. Retailers love the increase in GRPs in order to showcase holiday themed ads and deals that drive consumers to their ecommerce sites and stores. Read More

Seriously Cheesy Commercials

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As sweater weather sweeps the nation, in the food world, the focus for many shifts to comfort food. Soups, stews, roasts, and wonderfully cozy, comfy, melted cheese.

Cheese sales are at a crossroads – sales are up, overall. But sales of processed cheese are down. American cheese, made popular by Baby Boomers, is in steep decline as millennials seek nourishment from products whose ingredients are less unnatural.

Remember Kraft Singles, the bright orange, individually-wrapped plastic poster child of American cheese? Kraft Singles and Velveeta are expected to see a decline in sales this year for the fourth year in a row. Read More

Pumpkin Spice Sells a Latte of Goods

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It seems that every year, more fall activities creep in before Labor Day. More and more schools start early. And this year, Starbucks released the Pumpkin Spice Latte three days before Labor Day weekend, the earliest in the drink’s 15 year history.

It was 94 degrees in New York City on August 28, this year’s release date for the Pumpkin Spice Latte (aka the PSL). The temperature had no impact on Starbucks’ decision to release the seasonal drink that day. Rather, it was the money. Read More

A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Aretha, the Commercial Performer

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Few people have the depth and breadth in their career in commercials to have appeared in ads for cars and gasoline, candy bars, a credit card, an internet service provider, for McDonalds and Pizza Hut, and for both Coke and Pepsi. When Aretha Franklin died earlier this month, she left behind not just a legacy in music, but one in advertising as well.

Aretha was, in fact, involved in a pioneering effort in advertising on the radio. One of her first appearances, a 1969 radio ad for Coca-Cola, was a part of their “Things Go Better with Coke” campaign. Read More