Have you seen the new Yellow Pages ad – excuse me, the new Yell ad – that follows a man looking for an old trance mix by ‘Day V. Lately’. (Didn’t he play with Fur Q?) We see him visit numerous record shops and meet disappointment at every turn. He returns home dejected when his helpful teenage daughter hands him her Smartphone with a Yell App. Within moments he’s found what he’s been looking for. The last thing he needs to do is leave his name. Day V. Lately.
Even if you haven’t seen it, it should sound familiar because it’s the modern version of ‘J.R. Hartley’ the 1980’s Yellow Pages classic that was so successful they even released two books by the fictitious author. In fairness there are changes – for instance its seems that dads no longer look like kindly old gents; they look like old junkies.
But the Yell ad is just one of a spate of recent TV commercials that hark back to the past in a very deliberate and self conscious manner. A number of brands have been using vintage footage, re-purposing old films (think EDF Energy) and in some cases re-telling old stories for a new generation. In an industry that usually places a premium on novelty and currency you have to wonder why are brands leveraging nostalgia in this way? Is it to pull at our heart strings and make us feel all warm and fuzzy towards them? Is it to save money, or to display their green credentials? And more importantly, is it successful?
As I say, Yell isn’t the only brand that’s doing it. Last year Fairy Liquid launched an advert that used historical footage to persuade us that Fairy’s cleaning power is as good today as it’s always been, with the reassuring tones of Nanette Newman, the recognised face of Fairy, who informed us that it even goes 50% further, so you hardly ever have to buy it.
This served to support the launch of a retro pack as well as help the brand celebrate its 50th Anniversary. So having a nostalgic tone seems to logically fit the strategy and reassert the brand as the leader of the category for another 50 years.
Another household brand, Tetley, has used a similar tack. It has looked back in order to go forward by reinstating their old cartoon characters to star in two subsequent adverts that allows the brand to showcase how it has progressed with new blends, like Redbush and Green Tea, whilst also demonstrating that the brand is still better than the competition.
And you must remember the epic Hovis advert? Running for 122 seconds to mark each year that it was celebrating, it harked back to the original 1973 ‘Biker’ advert shot by Ridley Scott that cleverly follows a young boy through momentous events of the past. Virgin Atlantic and Sainsbury’s have also both used similar story telling to celebrate their respective anniversaries too. So it appears that brand heritage and length of service are motivating to their customer base, offering us reassurance in these troubled times.
The other tack being depolyed is where branda are literally recycling an old advert. Halls Soothers, Milky Way and Aquafresh have all done it recently. About the only thing that has been changed is the end frame.
For these brands it appears that they are cloaking cost saving by simply re-hashing the old in the absence of the new. It smacks of the marketing department realising that their budget has been slashed in the economic downturn. So in order to maintain share of voice, and avoid costly production costs, have dug into their archives to find a commercial that will remind people to keep buying their products.
Personally, I have no problem with this. I’ve always been amazed that marketers are prepared to splash out hundreds of thousands of pounds on film that is used for less than a year before consigning it to the archives, never to see the light of day again.
Perhaps, just like consumers, marketers are learning that it is irresponsible to use things a couple of times and then dump them. It’s true of clothes, furniture, electrical goods and now ‘advertising collateral’. Second-hand has been re-branded as ‘vintage’ and as we know vintage is in.
But nostalgia is by no means a new theme. Brands have often relied on imparting heritage stories in times of economic trouble. It’s like they are presenting themselves as the trusted companion to see you through the hard times, so that when you become more price sensitive, their brand will be the one that you retain.