Friday, September 22, 2023

Lessons from Two Memorable Ad Campaigns

A few years ago I read a book that called the emergence of shows like “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” television’s Third Golden Age. Media critics praised these series, along with others, because of their quality, complexity and artistic ambitions. 

Like many viewers, I found “Mad Men” to be more than just a sophisticated “As the World Turns” soap opera centered around characters and their personal lives. The show provided an inside look at the challenges, dynamics and creative processes that shaped the ad industry. We saw how marketing campaigns were created as responses to real world problems and issues that companies faced.

Against that backdrop I thought it might be fun to analyze a couple contemporary campaigns that garnered a lot of attention, Old Spice's "Smell Like a Man, Man" campaign and Dominos’ “Paving for Pizza” campaign.


A Whiff of Success with Old Spice

When I was a kid, my grandfather was an Old Spice man. I not only remember the logo from 60 or more years ago but even the jingle, which went like this

"Old Spice means quality,

Said the captain to the bosun;

Look for the package with the ship that sails the ocean.”

At the time, I didn’t know what a bosun even was, but that didn’t matter. The logo featured a sailing ship. You got the sense that the brand was associated with high seas adventure. Grandpa was respected and manly, and this was his aftershave.

These memories, however fond, were probably a problem for the Old Spice marketing team. Old Spice was an old man’s aftershave. Do young people want to smell like old people? Until this 2010 campaign came out, I myself never once used Old Spice. 

So here was the two-fold problem Old Spice faced. First, how can we position ourselves as something cool and desirable for a younger demographic. Second, since there are so many products on the men’s grooming shelves, is it even possible to capture the attention of our target audience?

To accomplish this, Procter & Gamble (who bought the Old Spice brand in 1990) turned to the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy to come up with the iconic "Smell Like a Man, Man" campaign. The commercials, featuring a suave, charismatic Isaiah Mustafa, were hilarious, offbeat and absurd. One of its most memorable ads featured Mustafa delivering his monologue in a single continuous shot, seamlessly transitioning between different scenes while holding the viewer's gaze. Amplified by the megaphone of social media, the over-the-top spots generated a lot of buzz and turned many consumers into brand advocates. It still makes people smile when they recall it more than a decade later.

Did the commercials achieve the company’s objectives? Yes, on both counts. It was not only noticed, the campaign went viral online and increased sales by 50% in the year following its launch. The campaign not only connected the brand with a younger audience, is also broke down some of the stereotypes often used to sell these kinds of products.

Paving for Pizza

We see them all the time, Domino's pizza delivery vehicles racing about, marked by their iconic red, white, and blue domino-shaped roof signs. Timely delivery is the name of the game. Late deliveries due to breakdowns caused by potholes are annoying for customers, drivers and undoubtedly the company.

In 2014 Domino’s decided to go on the offensive, rolling out a clever campaign called "Paving for Pizza." For every pizza sold Domino's pledged to donate $1 to repair potholes in towns across America. The company encouraged customers to nominate their local towns for pothole repairs, and in return, Domino's placed its logo on the newly filled potholes. By the time the campaign had run its course, 20,000 potholes were filled in 48 states.

While researching this I found local news stories galore on YouTube featuring what Domino’s was doing in their respective towns. The television coverage was plentiful and very positive. Who doesn’t want safer streets? In addition to the PR that accompanied the campaign they also utilized social media to raise awareness.  

The campaign succeeded in part because of the execution. Yes, the idea had legs, but there were also a lot of moving parts. The company had to coordinate with communities and not just the consumers they sought to inspire. The very first year their “Paving for Pizza” generated a 25% bump in sales.

Here are a few take-aways.

Domino's partnered with the National Association of Counties to identify roads in need of repair. By working with a local organization, Domino's was able to ensure that its efforts were making a difference in the community. It was a partnership, not a push.

Domino's goals were straightforward. The campaign was fun and tied in to what they do, which is deliver pizzas or make them for people who drive over to pick them up. Improving the roads was a way for the company to give back to the communities they served.  

Finally, Domino's tracked the results to see how much of an impact they were making. Always measure results. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. When you see what’s working and what isn't, you can improve your campaign in the future.

Both campaigns—Old Spice and Domino’s--won awards, which is fun. Awards always generate a little extra buzz for your brand and your ad agency, but at the end of the day success is measured on the bottom line.  

Originally published in Business North, September 2023

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