3 OLD types of advertising that STILL work



Advertising is similar to the technology world—it’s always about the latest thing. I’m sure many of you remember the now two-year-old (ancient!) prophesies of how the QR code would rumble the marketing world and life as we know it. Yeah, well.

Yet, there are some techniques in advertising that keep making a comeback. Perhaps it’s better to compare the field with fashion—every 20 years or so, things start popping up again.

Here are three types of advertising that enjoy continual rebirth, not for a lack of creativity (every generation of Mad Men puts their spin on it), but because they work. They still grab our eyeballs, hold our attention (even in the nano age) and occupy a few neurons in our skulls. And all of that madness somehow translates into people parting with their hard-earned money, time and again.

TYPE 1: The lovable character

Ronald McDonald… the Geico gecko… the Maytag repairman… those weird gangsta’ hamsters in the KIA commercials. Personifying a brand has been a popular technique since the 1950s.

Typically, the character embodies some aspect of the brand, making it human and relatable. Some brands take a short cut and use existing lovable characters (like Metlife and Peanuts). But typically, brands create their own characters, and far more goes into developing them than you can imagine. There are precise model sheets with detailed instructions on appearance, color, expressions and more… so the character always appears the same. There are reams and gigs of documents that detail their personality, and sometimes their background, where they live, and more. Even the voiceover artists who perform their characters are carefully chosen and often contracted for years to maintain that consistency. Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft was the voice of Tony the Tiger for 50 years, making quite a nice living for himself.

Why do characters work? They still have a way of breaking through the clutter. They bring life to a brand, and often, we care about the characters, feel sentimental about them over time and hence, the brands they represent.

TYPE 2: A theme

You will no doubt remember these…

“Get the sensation!” from York Peppermint Patty, a favorite campaign since the 1970s.

“Got milk?” for the California Milk Processor Board, which began in 1993.

“Priceless” from MasterCard—one of the industry’s most memorable campaigns began in 1997.

This type of advertising goes way back—many credit P.T. Barnum, who advised that if you push something long enough, people will eventually buy it. The key here is repetition—having a familiar theme, but still being creative enough to keep it interesting and fresh. Customers enjoy the familiar, predictable ending, but are open to how you get there.

Often, advertising themes and slogans morph into cultural icons—turning up in greeting cards, Saturday Night Live skits and movies.

Yes, but do they work? They really do. But until the age of social media and digital, you needed a lot of money to spend over a long period of time. Themes are also almost solely the domain of consumer advertising, but I’ve seen it work in some B2B, too.

TYPE 3: Having your own “look”

The pinnacle example here is Apple. Everything… everything… has the Apple look: The products, the packaging, the stores, the commercials, the website. The design itself conveys the brand perfectly: Easy to use and incredibly advanced.

But Apple isn’t the only one. Target’s got this down, too. As does Disney, Coca-Cola, UPS and so many others. You know their stuff as soon as you see it. What makes all of these brands stand out is the fact that they look different from their competitors and maintain their distinctive looks for a long time, without becoming dated.

Does it work? Yes. Familiarity and certainty is comforting to most people. It breeds trust and helps in the decision-making process. We’ve all seen the crazy backlash when brands redesign their logos (anyone remember Tropicana, GAP or JCPenney?!?).

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group


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