Plop, Plop. Fizzle, Fizzle: The Dangers of New Nostalgia

Why Alka-Seltzer's New Spots Leave Me With a Slight Headache

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I was in the car in Portland last week and the new V-8 and Alka-Seltzer campaigns were on the air. It was an opportunity to recast two iconic positions and give them a fresh perspective. I liked the V-8 effort. I didn't really like Alka-Seltzer's attempt at all. V-8 kept the spirit of the thing intact, while Alka-Seltzer tried to be a little too hip for the room.

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
That's the thing I've noticed about revamping something iconic; it can try a little too hard sometimes. What was lacking in Alka-Seltzer's execution was the purity of what made the campaign great. In the new rendition, the song includes all of the product benefits in an updated, rock-tinged homage to the bubbly headache elixir. In my opinion, it was just too much. The effect and impact of the original positioning just gets lost because I was trying to listen to what the singer was saying about the product. It reminded me of the cheesy local radio spots (some of which, I am sad to say, I have written after losing creative "discussions" with the client) where the talent sells the product too much in the narrative. It just sounds weird ... and forced.

There are times when this is appropriate; there are others when this kind of execution is just plain annoying. In my opinion, this was wasted air. We all know what Alka-Seltzer does. We all pretty much know what it's for. When you take the product benefits and usage directions and distill it down into a jingle, it just kills the idea. I wonder if there was a battle in the meetings, and the creative essence of what once made the campaign great was cast aside. If you're going for the "new nostalgia," it should at least retain some modicum of what made it iconic in the first place. To me, "plop, plop, fizz, fizz," should have a wink, not a Matchbox 20 riff.

"New Nostalgia" can be a slippery slope. On one side, it can be a robust reintroduction of a product or an idea that has real impact. V8 did a good job of keeping the purity of the original while giving it a relevant spin. On the other side, it can be actively annoying and do more harm than good.

What sucks, though, is that I can't get that Alka-Seltzer song out of my head.

Quick Hits
Is "new nostalgia" a viable brand execution? Or is it just an attempt to revisit something because a brand may not have new ideas bubbling up?

What are some of the best "new nostalgia" products/brands out there? The worst?

Did you get a headache reading this? And do you need an Alka-Seltzer about now?

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