Apr 16, 2019

Ads We Wish We’d Written

Geile/Leon #Geil30n, Advertising, Creative, Design, General, Trending Now, Trends
Geile/Leon

You can tell a lot about the way people think by observing the people they admire and the traits they aspire to emulate. As advertisers, we think that applies to our work as well. As we celebrate our 30th year in business, we wanted to look back not just at our own business and successes through the years, but also at the business and successes of the industry as a whole. Working in advertising, every week you encounter something that makes you say something like “Damn… I wish I’d worked on that campaign,” or, “Damnit, that’s a great line, why didn’t I think of that.”

Accordingly, we asked around the office to see what kind of work from over the years still earned our employees’ admiration and praise. It’s a peek into the kind of thinking we have around here at G/L, and a look at the caliber of work we strive to create every single day. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Anne-Marie Vaughn – Business Manager/Controller

Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell

Like These ads are so entertaining I never get tired of them. I can only imagine how much fun it was for the people who concepted and produced them. I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall for those video shoots! They’ve also been extremely effective in driving sales for Old Spice. For me, this represents the epitome of what an ad campaign should be.

McDonald’s – McD.L.T. commercial featuring Jason Alexander (1985)

I remember seeing this commercial on TV like it was yesterday. There aren’t many ads from my childhood that I remember fondly— this may be the only one. I loved the singing and dancing, and the styling is as classic 80s as it gets. Can’t say I was ever into the McD.L.T.— they discontinued it before I cared much about keeping the hot side hot and the cool side cool. Plus the packaging was really bad for the environment. It’s fun to go back and watch Jason Alexander in this though.

Melissa Ross – Social Media Manager

Starbursts Berries & Cream commercial

I remember when this came out (in 2007), EVERYONE would quote it. I would see it all the time on MTV, and the people in my life that thought it was funny was definitely my demographic (young millennials who still love to eat candy). Now, eleven years later, I can still remember how Starburst ran a limited-time campaign of their berries and cream-flavored candy. Why? Because of a catchy commercial.

Snickers – You’re not you when you’re hungry

This award-winning campaign not only increased Snickers sales by 15.9% and grew market share in 56 of the 58 markets in which it ran, but it’s super catchy and I think it’s hilarious. Here’s a great opinion article on why Campaign Live thinks it was a success.

Meg Strange – Senior Account Exectuve

P&G’s Olympic Games – Thank You Mom

I mean, who doesn’t love these commercials? I challenge anyone to sit through them and not shed a tear. It’s no secret that eliciting emotion is a surefire way to ensure ad recall, and P&G identified a meaningful way to use emotion to make their brand bigger than the household cleaning products it’s known for. 

After signing on as a sponsor for the Olympic games, P&G had to quickly develop an advertising strategy that would resonate amongst a global audience. They came to a realization that a common denominator for a majority of their brands was their primary audience: moms. Thus, “Thank You Mom” was born—a series of campaigns dating back to the 2010 Olympics that focus less on products, and more on the people who use them. Couple that with the storyline of an Olympic athlete and a mother’s love, and you have an instant winner in the hearts of consumers all over the world. The strategy is simple, the message is authentic and the creative is powerful. The result is advertising that has a lasting universal message the brand can truly be proud of—that seems like a pretty cool experience to be a part of! 

The Absolut Bottle Campaign 

Plain and simple, I think this was brilliant creative due, in large part, to its simplicity. True, the brand may have been blessed by sheer luck after the vodka caught Andy Warhol’s eye at Studio 54 in the 1980s. Specifically, the nondescript shape of the bottle. Warhol found it so mesmerizing, he designed an ad for it and the rest is history.

After the “Absolut Warhol” ad debuted, the brand launched the longest uninterrupted print ad campaign ever, featuring 1,500 separate ads showcasing the vodka bottle over a span of 25 years. Each ad was entirely unique, but followed a simple creative formula—”a bottle, two words and a little bit of wit.” This formula won big—before launching the campaign, Absolut had only 2.5% of the vodka market but, by its end, the brand had 50% of all imported vodka in the United States. As uninteresting as people find print nowadays, it’s fun to think about the time when print ads were, in some respects, work of art.  

Ben Schwab – Art Director

Chipotle – Back To The Start

More film than commercial, this ad is the perfect marriage of medium, messaging, music and simple, strait-to-the-point emotion-stirring narrative. It not only snared my attention and inspired me as a college student, but has managed to firmly lodge itself in my mind even now – a full 8-years since I’ve watched it. The ad itself is meant to establish Chipotle as supporters of sustainable farming and to remove itself from the established association with large-scale factory farming. They present this message via a story which follows the journey of an adorable little farmer who’s animated world is reminiscent of Wallace & Gromit. The emotional impact arguably comes across even stronger thanks to the unique visual style and the ability of the filmmakers to illustrate the progression of simple farming’s evolution towards an out-of-control industrial scale and then innovating again on it’s march back to the values and morals we began with. This all occurs over the backdrop of a well-aged Willy Nelson singing his rendition of “The Scientist”, humming into our eager ear holes the relevant line of, “let’s bring things back to the start.”

Aside from being incredibly impactful and strong in terms of delivering its message, the strongest part of the ad is its ability to present itself as entertainment. Before attempting to directly sell its audience on anything we are first guided on a journey and made to feel something thanks to the meticulous and well-planned visuals. As a student in the Missouri State design program I most likely re-watched this ad and its behind the scenes dissection over a dozen times. The effort spent in planning, constructing and shooting this video is on a scale I didn’t believe was possible for an advertisement. I would have killed to have sat in for a day and watched as those tiny pics slowly, shot-by-shot, wobbled their way across a field or were squished into pink meat cubes.  

Despite some of the more unfortunate issues Chipotle has had over the years since, I still think of it as the sustainable, grass-roots burrito thanks solely to that 2-minute video I watched almost a decade ago.

OK GO + Double A Paper – Obsession

Similar to Chipotle, this video blurs the line between advertisement and entertainment. The dizzying display this Ad/Music Video accomplishes is incredibly impressive and manages to present a mundane product such as paper not only as kick-ass cool, but as a limitless implement for creativity. In the process of entertaining the audience they manage to position the brand as a force for innovation as well as conservation (All paper was recycled as well as the video’s proceeds going to Greenpeace).

Coming at it from the creative perspective, much like the Chipotle video, the process and problem solving behind this production is the hero. Working in design we enjoy solving visual problems and this video takes the cake in that department. This video required north of 2 years to plan and prepare all the moving pieces before even one second was filmed. And when all was said and done, it’s an incredibly entertaining, effective and impactful video.

Luke Smith – Senior Account Executive

Old Spice – The man your man could smell like

To me, this takes the cake as one of the funniest, most original campaigns ever. In my opinion, the concept and delivery was ahead of its time because it was so over the top. I can still watch it to this day and laugh for hours.

Geico – Unskippable

This is a humorous campaign as well, but what I admired the most about it was the fact that it embraced the consumer mindset of wanting to skip over a pre-roll YouTube ad as quickly as possible and instead called the consumer out for it, “You can’t skip this Geico ad because it’s already over.” You think the ads over and instead you get a hilarious turn of unexpected events that started as a boring situation. Such a clever execution with true strategy catered to the platform. On a broader scale, Geico was able to take the most boring product/service in the world (insurance) and make it funny and engaging. It reshaped how other insurance companies approached marketing as well. 

Leanne Kaltenbach – Art Director

Geico – Unskippable

These preroll ads were creative and innovative — they were the first preroll ads that were specifically formatted for the medium! GEICO took something people really don’t like to watch and turned it into something that they not only didn’t skip but watched in its entirety! An amazing feat when it comes to preroll ads. In true GEICO fashion these ads were funny too — they used cheesy music, stocky visuals and boring messaging — but all of that combined with a simple live freeze frame resulted in hilarity!  GEICO stayed true to their brand while reinventing preroll ads. They showed you don’t have to spend a lot of time to get your message and name out. 5 seconds was all they needed to be memorable — a great lesson for other brands!

Burger King – Flame-Grilled

This series of print ads turned some not-so-good data (more BK’s have burned down than any other fast food chains) into a positive message for the brand. The ads show actual Burger King restaurants on fire — a twisted, fun way to remind customers that their burgers are always flame-grilled. Who doesn’t love a company that can make light of themselves — consumers love transparency and Burger King delivered.


Mike Haueisen – Copywriter

Taco Bell – Fourthmeal

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I’ve managed to work Taco Bell into the conversation once again, but what can I say? Advertising and branding is a delicate balance… on one side, brands tell consumers what their product is, and on the other, consumers tell brands what their product is. Often times, the best campaigns make full use of the latter, embracing an identity that consumers dictate. Such is the case with Taco Bell’s “Fourthmeal” campaign – a campaign that essentially said, “We are good drunk food.”  Instead of trying to promote themselves as a place for a quick lunch or dinner a la McDonald’s and other fast food establishments, Taco Bell literally invented a new meal in the day, and came right celebrating the fact that people wanted to eat their cheesy, beefy deliciousness after a late night out and probably a few too many drinks. They extended their store hours, and set the scenes of their spots in late-night alcohol-infused scenarios. Today, even as many of my peers and I try to be more health-conscious during the day, the association of Taco Bell with late-night food cravings remains the same. “Fourthmeal” always felt like something I was doing anyways but never had a name for, and when Taco Bell named it for me, it simply stuck. Twelve years after the campaign’s airing, my friends and I still say “Fourthmeal” when getting late night food.

Budweiser – Macrobeer

I loved this commercial so much when it first aired during the 2015 Super Bowl. The line “The people who drink our beer are people who like to drink beer” is brilliant. It says so much about a mindset, so simply. And much like the “Fourthmeal” campaign, it’s a great example of a brand embracing what they already are rather than trying to tap into every new market. I love all beers myself, and I can certainly be found “dissecting” local craft beers and snobbishly assessing them with friends from time to time – when I’m in that mood, no matter what Budweiser told me or made, they’d probably never get my attention. But I’ll be damned if there aren’t also many times that I simply want to have a good time, drink cold beers and let that be all there is to it… Call it the difference between having a drink and just having a damn beer. Like every other cliché, annoying, white millennial male who is desperate to appear interesting, I absolutely loved Anthony Bourdain and read many of his interviews. I often think back to an interview he gave a while ago in which he said, “But look, I like cold beer. And I like to have a good time. I don’t like to talk about beer, honestly. I don’t like to talk about wine. I like to drink beer.” This campaign did a magnificent job of owning that mood, instead of trying to change who Budweiser was in an attempt to capture a part of the growing craft beer market.