Old TV Commercials are More than Retro Cool – They are Instructive

As part of our feeding frenzy of holiday entertainment content consumption, my family was watching a Christmas episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour with Abbot and Costello.  The difference between this show from 1950’s TV and our modern streamed, enhanced, and digitized content is amazing.  The amount of slapstick humor being the most obvious.  But when it was all said and done it was not the dance numbers, Costello’s pratfalls, or even Abbots deadpan delivery that captivated us.  It was the commercials for Colgate-Palmolive that were mesmerizing.

Take a look at this example I found on YouTube.  It’s not the same one that was on the Christmas special but it is cut from the same mold. If you are trying to get a message about a product out to your customers, it is a simple example of a well executed example.

Are you laughing?  I sure did. Now watch it again, this time with a critical eye. Try not to be so superior or cynical.  Break it down and you will see the basics of advertising techniques exposed and naked. In our high-tech polished approach to marketing today we often forget the basics presented here.  Let’s look at them:

Start with the Brand and Product Claim

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A placard is the start. It shows the product, the brand, and a clear statement:  “Cleans Your Breath While it Cleans your Teeth!”  We would never use an exclamation point today, too much.  But see how clear it is. The viewer knows the product, the brand, and the claim. Now they need to drive that home.

Get Attention, with a Bird and some Drama

Next they show a bird and the words Squawk Squawk Squawk.  It’s cute and get our attention.  The bird also says that “feathers are flying.”  I wonder why? Is this clickbait of the 1950’s?

Establish the Problem

Basically, Tom isn’t getting any because his breath stinks.  She refuses to “COO” with him… but we all know what Tom really wants, and isn’t going to get till he sees the dentist.

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The Trusted Advisor Recommends the Product and Tells you Why

No subtlety here.  The dentist has a big Colgate poster on his wall and is holding the product so we can all see the branding.  And you thought a Coke can on a sitcom kitchen table was too blatant.

Our friendly dentist looks like an expert, an older and knowledgeable professional that is going to help us solve our problem.

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There is no build up. He launches right into the fact that you need Colgate to get rid of your bad breath, and here is why. Scientific test! 7 out of 10.  And then four performance claims: cures bad breath, cleans your teeth, tastes good, and stops tooth decay.  Each claim is backed up with a visual to reinforce it.

Positive Reinforcement: Tom gets to COO

Our narrator, a talking bird, provides the transition right into the positive reinforcement.  Tom gets some. And the narrator repeats the message.  “After Colgate, no more Squawking.”  Implying that no talking equals more making out.

Screenshot 2017-12-08 at 6.46.34 AMI have to say the passionate kiss is kind of like watching your parents make out… but it does get the point across.  Although, Al and Tipper did it better.

They then drive everything home with a jingle and a cartoon of two generic characters kissing.  The woman is SO HAPPY to see her man. A jingle is added to embed the message in our head with a catchy toon. This cartoon segment is interesting because it repeats the brand and key product claims twice.  The couple kisses and shows their smile as the happy moon looks on.

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Then the message repeats again with just words and the jingle.

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Trusted Advisor Comes Back to Make Sure You Get It

Our dentist starts with “remember.”  He says Colgate is what you need, and he makes the product claim a fifth time: clean breath, clean teeth. Those old-school Madison Avenue types repeat the message over and over again. And if you didn’t realize there were two claims, he holds up his fingers to make sure you know.  Simple branding, simple claims repeated in several different ways with visual reinformecement.

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Finish Up With Brand and Applause

At the end of any pitch, you have to transition back, and they do it with a brand message: “Colgate’s: Is Pure! White! Safe!” and product image.  What struck me about this transition back to the TV show is that this is the first time we have heard the “pure, white, safe” message. That sort of surprised me and I wonder if they were transitioning brand messaging or if this was intentional. Everything else on this add was repeating clean breath and clean teeth?  We may never know why they switched message. Maybe repeating it six times was one time too many?

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Notice something else?  The toothpaste tube in the first placard is facing left, at the end of the commercial, it is facing, right. Intentional?  Probably.

I just noticed something else as well, Tom is never shown using the product.  We see the positive result of his use, but at no point does anyone actually brush their teeth.

What Can We Learn From This Commercial?

I don’t know about you, but I became very conscious of my bad breath while watching this. I need to brush my teeth to get the Starbucks out of my mouth  The add held my attention even with the poor production values and wooden performance.  That is because it was simple and to the point.

The key lessons I took away from watching this a couple of times are:

  1. Tell a story
    Tom not getting any, the Bird is concerned, the wife fesses up and Tom gets help. Tom gets some after using the product.
  2. Introduce a problem that people care about
    Bad breath leads to no kissing. And Tom even put a tie on!
  3. Offer the solution from a trusted advisor
    Our stock dentist tells us what to do, how to solve our problem and backs it up with evidence.
  4. Show the benefit of using the product
    Tom and the cartoon characters get to smooch.
  5. Repeat the brand and the key product claims over and over again.
    Cleans your breath and your teeth!  Also, the brand in the form of the name, logo, and product are shown as often as possible.
  6. Keep the message simple.
    The dentist introduces two other claims (tastes good, fights decay) but does not dwell on it.

Think about your advertising, and especially your blog posts where you are trying to advertise a product.  Are you telling a story? Have you clearly defined a problem and a solution?  What are your product claims and are you repeating them?

This old advertising is great because it is so simple and obvious, we can see the construction and execution of a persuasive campaign clearly.  Sometimes from the superiority of our advanced technology and our cynicism about advertising, we do not take advantage of the lessons the experts of yesterday knew well.  How is this any different from the latest Cialis advertising?

Getting the right message to your customer is hard, which is why you should be blogging with some basic rules and techniques to make you more efficient and effective.  “Better Blogging for Your Business” is the perfect solution.  Seven out of Ten business bloggers found it very useful to their blogging activities.  It is scientifically proven to get bird owning housewives to do more business with you.  OK, I’ve not taken a poll or done a scientific study. But anecdotally I’ve heard that they found the book very useful.  I won’t promise that your Significant Other will embrace you in an awkward kiss, but I will promise that reading the book will be useful to your blogging efforts.  Stop Squawking and order your copy today.

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