One of the elements that makes a certain commercial or ad campaign in general stick out from the crowd is how much it ends up incorporating itself into pop culture. A memorable line can turn into a popular catchphrase, a goofy scene can end up being referenced over and over again in any form of media or entertainment, and a novel schtik can lend itself to being parodied for years to come. I’ve expounded before on this phenomenon in advertising, and how it can make otherwise forgettable commercials stand the test of time.
Back in the 80’s, the deep thinkers at advertising think tanks began coming up with the idea that tricking people into liking their product was the way to go. Pepsi was one of the first to make this type of gimmick popular with their famous Pepsi Challenge in the 70’s and 80’s (Raise your hand if you remember the bottle cap contest mentioned in that Wiki article, and that the hardest letter to get was A!). Wendy’s did this well with their long-forgotten Burger A vs. Burger B campaign in the late 80’s (Boring author’s note: I probably only remember these Wendy’s ads because in the ultimate one-time gag gone too far, I incorporated the guy who conducts the Wendy’s taste tests into a comic strip I was drawing in a notebook at the time, and he went on to become one of that strip’s major characters).
Folgers coffee took this idea and went even further with it, “secretly replacing” a known high quality coffee with their own… and the result was memorable ads such as this one:
So many things stand out about these ads… like the disclaimers they added at the bottom of a couple of the commercials…
INVITED GUESTS RECEIVED A COMPLIMENTARY MEAL
Which of course means that none of the people you see who had their regular gourmet coffee jacked by this out of work news anchor are regular patrons of the restaurant. They’re just people pulled in off the street with the promise of a free meal, so long as they’ll drink the special coffee. Maybe this is why all of the hidden camera “victims” seem to be faking their enthusiasm that they’re drinking the same mud they can brew at home, or just seem to be completely disinterested in the revelation altogether.
ANNOUNCER: “Sir, did you know the coffee you’re drinking isn’t the normal house coffee, but is in fact FOLGERS CRYSTALS?”
DINER: “Ummmm…. OK”
ANNOUNCER: “So what do you think of the FOLGERS CRYSTALS?”
DINER: “I haven’t drank the coffee because I don’t like coffee, you nosy prick”
ANNOUNCER: “May I remind you that FOLGERS is picking up the check for your meal?”
DINER: “So…. Oh, I get it. What!?!? This is really FOLGER’S CRYSTALS I’m drinking! This stuff’s the shit! Waiter! Can I have another cup of that delicious, mouth watering FOLGERS CRYSTALS?”
It’s too bad Folgers did this in the 80’s rather than in the recent decade, because I’d love to see them pull this stunt at Starbucks.
So remember, if you ever happen to be walking down the street and are suddenly invited by a strange man to dine at a fancy restaurant you could never afford to even look at the menu in, be prepared to smile and act perky when they come around and ask what you think of the coffee. And just be sure that they’ve replaced the coffee with genuine FOLGERS CRYSTALS, and not something else…..