Here’s a thing that always used to fascinate John Webster.
The corny done brilliantly.
He was fascinated because you just didn’t see it.
So he identified a massive opportunity.
Take Leo Burnett in Chicago.
They had a massive agency built out of unashamedly corny advertising.
Like The Jolly Green Giant.
Or Tony the Tiger.
What breakfast cereal was he advertising?
I remember he always said, “They’re GREEE-EEAAA-AATTT”
And I’m sure it wasn’t Rice Crispies.
(I think that was three other corny little guys called SNAP CRACKLE & POP, wasn’t it?)
Maybe it was Kellogg Sugar Frosties, Tony the Tiger advertised.
The point is, I’ve been seeing that advertising for decades.
The character is so powerful I remember him even though I don’t remember the product.
But I go into a supermarket and I don’t have to, because he’s all over the box.
So, without even knowing the name of the product, I can buy that brand.
The character is bigger than the product.
The commercials were always pretty badly written.
Tiger does pratfall from surfboard, roller skates, skis, BMX, or whatever research shows kids are into.
Then gets up and delivers the mnemonic to camera.
But the ads worked and people loved the character.
Now John’s fascination with this kind of advertising was as follows.
If these characters are so powerful when they’re not even well written, imagine how powerful they’d be if they were well written.
At that time the ads had the emotional appeal of a cute lovable character.
But that was all they had.
Imagine if they were written with wit and style, and you could add intelligence to emotion.
How good would that be?
Well, you tell me, how good was it?
Here’s some of John’s list, and everything on it won awards:
The Honey Monster.
Cresta Bear.
The Smash Martians.
The Hoffmeister Bear.
The Humphries.
All absolutely brilliant on any scale of measurement.
Rational or emotional.
And to prove the point, reverse the process.
BMP lost Sugar Puffs to Y&R.
So Y&R had to carry on the Honey Monster campaign.
Look at the commercials John had previously written and made.
Funny, witty, intelligent.
In fact, the entire campaign won a D&AD silver.
Not bad for a fluffy children’s character to impress a snooty D&AD jury.
Now look at what Y&R did with it.
You see John’s creation is still there, but nothing else.
Honey Monster is now shorn of wit and intelligence.
Just another lumbering character that has to end every commercial with a prat fall and mnemonic to camera.
So you see, like John, we can all learn from corny advertising.
Because even in that, there’s something that works.
You just have to be clever enough, like John, to work out what that is.
Then keep that and throw away the rest.