Monday, February 14, 2011


After all the hoo-hah with the Super Bowl ads last week, how about a bit of nostalgia-themed advertising banter to kick off this week instead?

The retread and nostalgia business is clearly thriving. Movie franchises such as Superman and James Bond are well into their latest reboots; customers plop themselves onto the vinyl banquettes of faux-1950s diner chains for a patty melt. Everything was better, fresher and sweeter years ago… or at least we trick ourselves into thinking so.

So maybe it’s time for the ad business to hit that trend. This has been happening in the UK recently, where brands are making throwback TV spots that reference famous ads from years past, and attracting good buzz from doing so. Can the rest of the world be far behind?

American advertisers have dipped their toes very carefully in the water. Two Super Bowls ago, Coke did a parody/update of its classic Mean Joe Greene ad. The old fogies in the audience will remember the spot featured the gruff Pittsburgh Steelers lineman hobbling away from a tough game, being offered a cold bottle of the soda from a young fan, rejecting the offer… then finally accepting it and tossing the kid his game jersey as a thank-you. The updated version featured current Steeler Troy Polamalu, with the twist of an obnoxious adult fan grabbing the kid’s Coke Zero before Polamalu can accept it… and getting convincingly tackled by the football player for his effort. The ending has Polamalu claiming the drink, then ripping the would-be-thief’s shirt off and throwing it to the kid for a souvenir.

Like most Super Bowl ads, though, that was essentially made as a one-off, something to provide a surprise and a chuckle. Perhaps that’s the fate of nostalgia ads in the US – expensive single commercials that mine a classic only as a source of parody.

It’s a shame to limit them so narrowly. The little kids who laughed at TV ads in the 1980s and 1990s are now an attractive demographic group with significant spending power, so a well-made, at least semi-reverential spot could stir their emotions and score fresh brand awareness.

It could even make a lot of that demographic, myself included, feel young again - even if only for half a minute. Now that’s a jersey worth tossing their way.

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