I was speaking to a group of sales reps recently and asked them if they had ever seen the ads that included the guy sitting at the table with the kids asking them questions. They all allowed that they had seen the ads and enthusiastically recalled their favorite versions. They were wonderful ads that included humor and showcased how cute and engaging kids can be.
After the sales people finished discussing how they enjoyed the commercials, I asked if any of them knew what was being advertised. The ten or twelve people in the group took turns guessing what the ads were about and after several attempts one of the members of the group finally said, “Hey, wasn’t it about a cell phone or something?”
Yes. It was. AT&T was advertising their wireless service. By contrast, those of you who are old enough to remember the phrase, “Do you know me?” will easily recall that it was the American Express card that helped the famous people in those commercials get the services they wanted even though they may have been known by name only and not recognized by sight.
That brilliant campaign ran from the mid 1970’s to the mid 1980’s and tripled the number of card holders for American Express. It was so popular and well received that in addition to the seventy some that were featured, Am Ex had dozens of other big-name celebrities asking to be on the ads.
So, what have we learned? My point to the group then and to you now is that if we have seen or heard a commercial several times and don’t know what it is about, then it didn’t do its job. Cue the toilet flushing sound and watch the money spent on production and air time swirling down the drain.
By the way, (and I bring this up only as a shameless self promotion and to sell more books) one of the people on those American Express ads was Red Adair. He was famous for fighting oil well fires and was the subject of the 1968 movie Hellfighters starring John Wayne. I had the privilege of having Rad Adair as a passenger. My recollection of meeting him and our conversation is included in my books, “Learjets And Layovers” and “Freight Dog” both of which are required reading.
As an additional item of interest, C. F. Frost, the name that is seen on the card above and in many of the classic American Express commercials, was one of the ad execs at Ogilvy & Mather, the agency that came up with the campaign.
Comment early and often then hang around for our next post when we’ll examine editing and directing to determine what went wrong with a couple of commercials that could have been better. Till then….like, share and subscribe. TTFN