Google has done something clever for the ad industry: It has demonstrated just how far it has gone (for good or for ill) in moving from the TV to the mobile age. "With this new opportunity comes new challenges to create rich ad experiences that engage and delight viewers," is how Google puts it.
Google has reimagined four iconic ads from the 1960s and 1970s in Project RE: Brief, an experiment that reimagines the old ads with new marketing capabilities, built on platforms of mobile rich media. "These ads try to push the boundaries of what can be done with today’s technology," says Google.
The company “mobilized” four classic campaigns, including Coca-Cola’s iconic “Hillside Singers” ad (“I’d like to buy the world a Coke”) and Alka Seltzer’s “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing.”
To put these ads in perspective, the Coca Cola “Hillside” ad debuted in 1971, when “The Godfather” was still filming, “Star Wars” was six years off and Nixon was president in his first term. The Coke ad portrayed hundreds of young-skewing, mixed-ethnicity people singing that they would like to buy the world a Coke and “keep it company.” The “Alka Seltzer” ad aired during broadcasts of the first season of “All In The Family.” It featured a beleaguered husband named Ralph who overate, taking Alka Seltzer (at the urging of his wife) to cure his gas and bloating.
The only cross-media possibilities at the time were radio and print—but the Coke ad “went viral” in its way. Radio stations got requests to play the jingle as if it were a hit record. And Coca-Cola produced a Christmas version of the ad. The Alka-Seltzer ad too “went viral,” ‘70s style. Johnny Carson and “Saturday Night Live” lampooned it, and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” became one of Newsweek magazine’s 10 most memorable lines of the decade. Bayer (makers of Alka-Seltzer) responded by buying more TV spots, rather than try to cross over into radio or print with the hit campaign.
Jump ahead 40 years. The marketing possibilities involve YouTube, real-time bidding, precise targeting and a ton of work and money (see graphic). Google’s reimagination for Alka-Seltzer includes a series of ads to tell the backstory of “The day Ralph ate the whole thing”, a series of “prequels” leading up to to Ralph’s midnight distress. Short episodes would have Ralph eating a hoggish breakfast, lunch and dinner, depicted through interactive display and mobile ads. Each ad impression would be personalized for viewers based on their location, interests, time of day and other factors. (Presumably, an older Pennsylvanian would see Ralph eating the region’s iconic scrapple for breakfast, while British viewers would witness Ralph eating fried tomatoes with beans on toast).
Interestingly, Coca-Cola today is taking full advantage of cross-media campaigns with, for example, $11 million for two Super Bowl ads in February featuring its iconic animated polar bears, with invitations to visit www.CokePolarBowl.com on tablets and smartphones for more interactive content. That interactive content is chiefly a YouTube channel featuring 34 short films of the polar bears singing the national anthem, commenting on the teams and so forth. In 1971, two ads (the hillside version and the Christmas version) were sufficient.
So Google has gone cleverly described the “opportunities” of interactive and mobile ads (on the Google platform), but it has also underscored that these are as much obligations as they are opportunities, all to achieve what the originals achieved marvelously well: Instant brand recognition and lift.