Friday, June 24, 2011

The Man in the Hathaway Shirt - by David Ogilvy

A tribute to David Ogilvy from my end, on his 100th Birth Anniversary.

The idea of 'Style' is so dichotomous that it's almost an eternal buzzword. Cutting the faff short, when it comes to men's apparels, style is commensurate to being chic, suave and elegant. Therefore, ten out of ten ads on men's apparels will have charismatic men standing in a 'stylish' pose flaunting their fine clothing. But if that defines the scope of style , how does an apparel marketer break through the clutter? Probably they can learn a lesson or two from the legendary King of Madison Avenue, Mr David Ogivy himself. The man did something phenomenal for a humble shirt manufacturing company, C.F. Hathaway, that brought the sales of Hathaway Shirts from rock bottom to hill-top.
It was early 1951. No next door Tom, Dick or Harry knew about the existence of a shirt brand namely Hathaway Shirts. The destiny of this Waterville, Maine based small company changed overnight when its President Ellerton Jette proposed David Ogilvy to create a marketing campaign for its shirt brand. Right from the beginning, Jette made it evident that the campaign might not involve aplenty dollars but he assured there won't be any intervention on the creative front, which, till date, means a huge thing for any creative agency. That's how Hathaway Shirts' first ever advertising campaign came into picture.
So what was so extraordinary about this print commercial? A handsome Russian aristocrat, Baron George Wrangell, doned the fabric on his stout built body and an effervescently radiant face added brownie points to the charm factor. And a tag-line in bold that read, 'The Man in the Hathaway Shirt'. But that's not what did the magic. The magic was created by a conspicuous black eye patch on the aristocrat's right eye. The eye patch was so catchy it made people think how could he have possibly injured himself to get one. There were tales of people building their own interpretation of the eye patch. And that triggered their imagination, and a curiosity for the brand as well. Soon, the eye patch became a cult and one could see people wearing them during Broadway Plays and TV Shows. There were incidents wherein people would walk-in a store to buy Hathaway Shirts and walk-out with a black patch on their right eye. Achieving iconic status with an eye patch was the catch indeed.
And the numbers never belied the success rate of the campaign. The first ad appeared in The New Yorker for $3, 176. Within a week of the release, Hathaway shirts' entire stock was sold out. The next week, the ad was reprinted in Life, Time and Fortune.

Ogilvy had always believed in acquiring immense knowledge about the craft from reading about the discipline. In one of the books written by another advertiser, Harold Rudolph, Ogilvy learnt about story appeal and how the elements of a photograph enhanced the story appeal. The iconic eye-patch was just a by product of that priceless lesson. Consider this, a black eye patch did away with the rough patch in Hathaway shirts' fate, without leaving any creases, smoothly, and how!

Monday, June 20, 2011

M&Ms - Melts in your mouth, not in your hands!

History has it that wars have always had devastating effects on both sides of the war-front. But getting a sweet, delectable product out of a war is a once in a lifetime occurrence. That happened in this era, when Forrest Mars, Sr. observed Spanish soldiers relishing on shots of chocolates enclosed in a thick sugary coating, during the Civil War (1936-39). The encasing was of special focus here because it prevented the chocolates from getting melted. And that gave birth to M&Ms candy coated chocolates. Even though the chocolate was introduced in 1941, during the gory period of World War II, it became a cash cow for Mars because it found a plethora of consumers in the U.S. Army itself. Soldiers preferred to take it along because thanks to the candy coating, the chocolates won't melt and they could keep them for a longer time before savouring them.
While M&Ms started getting popular with the US Army-men, Hershey remained the largest chocolate company in America. To outdo Hershey, M&Ms resorted to extensive advertising through billboards, radio spots, print adverts and consequently, their sales soared up to $ 3 Million by 1949.
Soon, Mars Inc hired Ted Bates & Co., (now Bates 141), an advertising firm based out of Chicago, to market the brand and hence, in 1954, came a sprightly campaign, “Melts in your Mouth, not in your Hands”. Inevitably, the campaign was an instant success because apart from the luscious taste, the chocolates offered something unique and that was made the core of the campaign.

The campaign also introduced cartoon characters representing M&Ms, namely Mr. Plain & Mr. Peanut in the same year. It might be interesting to note that these two adorable and charming characters were recently voted as America's favourite advertising icons outstripping legendary icons like Pillsbury's Doughboy and Kellogg's Tony the Tiger!

A perfect combination of an intelligent campaign coupled with two irresistibly sweet characters resulted in huge profits that surpassed Hershey's numbers within two decades. While BBDO is the current ad agency hired by M&Ms, it was Ted Bates & Co. that secured Mars Sr. a 39th rank in Advertising Age's list of Top 100 Advertising Campaigns.

Going back to the basics, it is commendable how a product that owes its genesis to a merciless war, can become such a celebrated legend that can lead people to forget the blood-shed that brought sorrow and remember the cocoa-shed that brought them 'chocolates', err, candy coated chocolates. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wendy's - Where's the Beef

It was the deep blue recessionary phase of the 1980s in USA. When all the companies were finding it hard to minimise growing losses, the US Hamburger Giant Wendy's International showed the courage to propagate one simple message that brought about the most significant landmark in its 15 year long history. "Where's the Beef?", the campaign mastered by Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample Ad Agency was first aired on January 10th, 1984. Two elderly ladies were shown staring at an exorbitantly huge hamburger bun only to find a minuscule hamburger patty in between. Enters an octogenarian Clara Peller adamantly prompting the obvious question, "Where's the Beef?". And hence it is skillfully implied that the only place you'll get ample portion of beef in a hamburger is at Wendy's!

Soon after the campaign got out, Wendy's earnings doubled, tripled and quadrupled. Gone were the recessionary blues and the Hamburger giant was beefing up on $76.2 million record earnings within the next one year. The 2600 unit burger chain went on to expand its consumer base globally to 6000 Wendy's units post the campaign's success. Not to mention it also acquired 45% stake in Cafe Express while enjoying the phrase's growing popularity across USA and Canada.

Wendy's would have fathomed a triumph, but never in their wildest dreams could they have envisaged the phrase to get associated with the 1984 US Presidential Elections. During the primary elections, former Vice President Walter Mondale used the phrase to criticise his opponent Senator Gary Hart in a televised debate. A TVC's phrase becoming a catalyst in political wars; now who could have seen that coming !!!

Not just that, the phrase was repeatedly heard in sitcoms like Scrubs,The Simpsons and The Office. Singers started using it in their lyrics; now that's phenomenal! Right from the rib chuckling commercial to the laughter rending print ad, the campaign was one shot ace straight at the bull's eye. An 80s out-of-the-box idea of incorporating an old lady, and not a burger eating student, caught the attention of Ad maven David Apicella of Ogilvy who considered this to be the best line in a commercial over the past 25 years. Fascinating it is, that the campaign was only worth $7 Millions, but Wendy's gained $32 Millions on the circulation of the commercial itself. Now that's called cashing in on a question !


Friday, June 3, 2011

Avis - We Try Harder

The 1960s era reminds most of us of man's journey to the moon, but this period also saw immaculate advertising, especially in the U.S.A. In the annals of exceptional advertising, the one outstanding campaign created during this period was Car Rental Avis Management's 'We Try Harder' marketing genius.

Let's paint a vivid picture of the entire scenario. Those were the initial few months of 1962 and Avis had not made any profits for the last 13 years. With a meagre 11% market share in the business, Avis was far behind the leading car rental company Hertz. To be precise, Avis was like that school girl with freckles and dishevelled hair that no one ever noticed in the class. Now the story badly needed a God-sent angel to turn the fairy tale around. Enter Robert Townsend as the CEO of Avis and the distressed company gets onto the 'happy-go-lucky' track for the first time since its 'inception'. 

Townsend appointed Bill Bernbach of ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) and emphatically asked him, "How do we get five dollar's worth of impact for every dollar we spend?" Bill demanded 90 days to learn their way of working and studied Avis' management from head to toe. He recommended the car rental company to overhaul its product before any new campaign sees the dawn of a new day. Bill religiously believed that it is always a mistake to make a good advertisement for a bad product and hence wanted to ensure Avis was a good product indeed.

 DDB involved Art Director Helmut Krone(of the Volkswagen campaign fame) and Writer Paula Green to work on Avis. During the process of understanding the nitty-gritties of Avis, the team asked one innocuous question to Avis' employees, "Why does anyone ever rent a car from you?" And thus came the reply that made a historical landmark in marketing archives, "We try harder because we have to." 

It was as if DDB could see the road ahead from that point. The agency decided to turn Avis' vulnerability into its asset and came up with the 'We try Harder' campaign. DDB broke the standard mould of advertising with a simple yet powerful campaign based solely on truth. The truth which enunciated that Avis is not the top notch company and that's why they have to put in more efforts to create a niche in the consumer's mind, and that's their USP. 

With no creative fluff, whatsoever, a curt and yet a polite campaign sans any cleverness was an instant hit among consumers at large. The company that was lurking in losses for more than a decade began to make resounding profits within a year of the launch of the campaign. And within 3 years, Avis' market share more than tripled from 11% to 35%. Such a distinctively simple, self-effacing and yet a motivating brand experience is worth the 'treble', isn't it!