NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Suddenly, it seems we are surrounded by breathless ads heralding products that will change the world. Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, appears to indicate in its first slickly produced, quick-cut commercial (called "Manifesto," just in case you don't get the point) that it will deliver us from information overload that seems to have distracted us from realizing the economy was collapsing. Palm's new Pre offers to give our presumably meaningless lives "flow," elaborately illustrated in a beautifully shot -- but totally overwrought -- spot featuring hundreds of harmoniously choreographed dancers on a hillside.
Will Bing or Pre really change our lives? Seems doubtful, but then, we've heard that advertising siren song before. These spots took us back to some of the most extravagant brand claims of the past 25 years. Did those products live up to the hype? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The all-time-classic commercial "1984," Chiat/Day's stunning anti-oppression tale, launched the Mac by promising that 1984 wouldn't be "like '1984.'" Actually, most of us still seem to be working for the man, and a lot of us are still doing that using Microsoft products, but Apple did offer a real alternative and has stayed true to the idea of genuinely breakthrough products. This is rare case of a marketer delivering on a really bold claim.
Hal Riney's deliciously understated effort for the General Motors brand told the world this was "a different kind of car company; a different kind of car." From the first film, "Spring in Spring Hill," the campaign delivered with homespun images and just enough quirkiness to show the brand's individuality. But Saturn, of course, lost touch with its service roots and retail promise. Today, the brand is on the block, and its parent is bankrupt. The vaunted Spring Hill factory no longer assembles Saturns; GM said last week the plant will close this fall.
R.J. Reynolds was going to make smoking socially acceptable again with Premier, a cigarette that heated rather than burned tobacco. Ads for the brand excitedly called it "a breakthrough," but legal constraints tamped down the claim to "substantially reduces many of the controversial compounds found in the smoke of tobacco-burning cigarettes." Not exactly compelling language (sorry, Y&R
). And oh, it tasted foul. Pushback from anti-smoking advocates and the threat of FDA regulation snuffed out Premier in short order.
4. THE MCDLT
The product: a hamburger packaged so that the hot beef patty was on one side of the box, far removed from the lettuce and tomato so that it would not wilt the vegetables. McDonald's hoped to drown out chatter about Burger King's "Herb the Nerd" campaign. The idea was clever, but not as earth-shattering as the fast feeder made it out to be in a fast-talking, high-stepping, soaring-chorus commercial featuring Jason Alexander that has to be seen to be believed. (Thank you, YouTube.) The burger disappeared from menus years ago.
5. WINDOWS 95
At the time of its introduction, Ad Age's Bradley Johnson called it "the most hyped product in computer history." And Windows got plenty of hype, including a $200 million, 23-country push from Wieden & Kennedy using no less than the Rolling Stones singing "Start Me Up." And Windows today? Well, just try getting away from it if you own a PC.
Funny, isn't it, how Microsoft keeps coming up? This time Bill Gates shelled out $500 million for a McCann Worldgroup-produced campaign themed "The Wow starts now" that actually borrowed images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Woodstock to persuade consumers that Vista was not just an operating system but a potentially life-changing event. But why bother if every PC comes loaded with it anyway? Vista was hobbled by glitches, complaints about slowness and mixed reviews. Microsoft will roll out its successor, Windows 7, this fall.
7. WOW CHIPS
The name says it all. Frito-Lay was sure it had a winner with the fat-free potato chip that professed, "One taste and you'll be a believer." But the product had a rather unpleasant side effect: It was made with Procter & Gamble-developed Olean, a fake fat that isn't absorbed by the body and, if consumed in large amounts, can result in anal leakage. Though Frito gave it a good go in test markets with ads from BBDO
, America just couldn't swallow it.
8. NEW COKE
For a product that was to replace a 99-year-old icon beloved around the world, New Coke got a rather understated ad campaign. The ads, created by McCann Erickson
, carried themes such as "Have we got a taste for you!" and "The best just got better!" The reformulated Coca-Cola came out with a bang and landed with a thud. On its own website today, Coca-Cola references it as "the marketing blunder of the century," and the date of the product's launch, April 23, 1985, as "a day that will live in marketing infamy." How can we add to that?
9. CRYSTAL PEPSI
Here was a product that was going to change how we think of colas. Pepsi themed its ads for the clear cola with the urgent "Right now" and promised, "You've never seen a taste like this." Well, maybe consumers hadn't seen a taste like it, but they had tasted a taste like it: regular Pepsi. Though the brand initially raked in sales, aided by a requisite Super Bowl spot, the public finally saw through the claim. By 1994, Pepsi and BBDO were recasting the brand as a citrus-flavored beverage simply called Crystal. And I guess we know how that went.
10. NIKE AIR
The spot was gorgeous, a Wieden masterpiece set to the Beatles' "Revolution." The problem was it licensed the song from Michael Jackson, who had bought the Beatles' catalog, and not the Fab Four themselves, who were evidently not athletic-shoe supporters. The resulting lawsuit dragged
on for two years before a settlement in 1989. Not to be outdone, the agency then called Chiat/Day/Mojo created a beyond-quirky spot for Reebok called "Let U.B.U.," aimed at winning a then-neck-and-neck share battle. Yeah, right.