Which is exactly what Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, did for Dove Styling products. To introduce this new line of seven gels, mousses, de-frizzers and so on, Ogilvy signed three of the most enduring icons in show-business: Jane Jetson, Wilma Flintstone and "Scooby-Doo" star Velma Dinkley.
"My hair has been stuck in the Stone Age," says Ms. Flintstone, her red bun as tightly wound as ever.
"Jinkies!" declares (the somewhat butch) brunette Velma. "My hair doesn't move."
"My hair doesn't feel free," the gingerheaded Ms. Jetson complains. "I don't feel free."
It's an immediate laugh, because-come to think of it-their hairdos haven't budged in close to 50 years. Yes, it's funny, because, yes, all three ladies are famously coiffure-disadvantaged. But as celebrities, aren't they also a little bit ... oh, you know ... two-dimensional?
Which is more or less a structural problem when your spokesmodels are cartoon characters.
The strategy apparently was to employ female images actual females can relate to-versus the Ford Agency freaks made even more impossibly beautiful with tricks of lighting, makeup, wind machines, digital retouching, etc. Those cover girls, let's face it, are cartoon characters, too-or holograms, or something not of this world. You take images of Wilma Flintstone and Naomi Campbell and count the pores on both of them; either way you come up with zero.
The question remains, of course, whether women will actually relate to a famously plain Jane if her last name is Jetson. Familiarity with an iconic character is one thing, empathy quite another. (It is nice to see Jane looking as perky as ever. After her disastrous affair with Mr. Spacely and well-publicized addiction to prescription painkillers, she's spent years bouncing from rehab to rehab, cheesy game show to infomercial. Maybe her smile seems a bit painted on, but she looks absolutely fabulous. Botox?)
One thing Wilma and friends will generate is attention. For whatever reason, no matter your age, cartoon characters grab you and tug you to the TV screen like a lassoed calf. Humanoid goddesses tossing their hair in super-slow motion have their allure, too, but nothing like the head-jerking effect of a familiar Flintstone.
Just think about Snoopy and Met Life. Could there be a bigger mismatch than a financial-services company fronted by a mute comic-strip dog? Yet the ads jumped out in a dull and/or unnerving category for decades, projecting a warmth and approachability not much engendered by, say, a looming Rock of Gibraltar.
Approachability, alas, is not everything. The biggest problem with Dove's approach may come down to credibility. It's undeniably a hoot to see Wilma with her hair finally down, bouncy and buoyant. But real women take their styling gel very seriously-almost mystically-which is why they gravitate to the exotic salon brands with the herbally correct ingredients. That expense must be justified with a certain gravitas.
Pebbles Flintstone was a good spokeskid for sugared cereal. She probably wouldn't have made it for foie gras.
Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago
Ad Review Rating: 2.5 stars