When a group of teen-agers were asked several years ago what they thought of 7-Up, they used words like "dull" and "conservative" to describe the soft drink.
"This told us one thing for certain," said Russ Klein, senior vice president of marketing at 7-Up. "We hadn't done a very good job of appealing to teen-agers." The company decided that the best way to attract the teen market was with a cherry-flavored beverage. But how to market it? The answer was as close as the television dial.
Like many advertisers trying to attract the teen market, the company looked to the rock music television network, MTV. There, executives noticed a growing number of otherwise black-and-white videos that used flashes of color on items like drumsticks or guitars. So why not try the same thing on the cans in Cherry 7-Up commercials?
Of course, they weren't the only marketers watching MTV. Calvin Klein quickly came out with ads for its Obsession perfume that featured a colored perfume bottle in a black-and-white setting. Bristol-Myers, which makes the pain medication Nuprin, also introduced a black-and-white ad that featured shots of the yellow tablet in color. And even the world's biggest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, joined the fold with this technique in print ads for Sure deodorant. In all cases, advertisers used the so-called splash of color format to make their own products stand out.
Now, advertising executives say, splash of color is officially a trend--a form of advertising likely to be repeated again and again until it dies from lack of interest. Executives say the process is fairly simple and not very expensive. A computer is used to colorize tidbits of the ads, and it can cost less than $10,000 on a typical $150,000 commercial.
"When people first see these ads, they think their TV sets are out of order," said Donald F. Bruzzone, president of an Alameda-based research firm bearing his name. "But all advertisers want is attention, and these ads get attention."
Among the leaders was 7-Up's Chicago-based ad firm, Leo Burnett, which developed a series of boy-meets-girl commercials that mostly feature teens gathering at spots like drive-in restaurants. A recent black-and-white commercial, filmed in Los Angeles, features a girl in a pink car who attracts the attention of a boy in a pink tie. Also highlighted in pink is the Cherry 7-Up that she is drinking.
For 7-Up, the results have been astounding. "Cherry 7-Up is one of the most successful new products in soft-drink history," said Gary Hemphill, editor of the Cleveland-based publication, Beverage Industry. Indeed, when the product was introduced last year, 7-Up posted its first market share gain in the $38-billion domestic soft-drink industry in nearly a decade, he said.
Nuprin is trying to get across the point that the yellow pill is different from regular aspirin. The company's ad firm, New York-based Grey Advertising, decided that the way to make the yellow pill stand out in commercials was to make everything else in the commercial black and white.
"This is a way to not only say that the product is different, but to also show that it is different," said Herb Lieberman, executive vice president at Grey. "These ads are getting much higher recall than our previous campaign."
Other advertising executives are watching the splash of color campaigns closely. But some are reluctant to mimic them. "They're clever, but technique alone is never a substitute for a good idea," said Phillip Joanou, chairman and chief executive of the Los Angeles ad firm, Dailey & Associates. "You still need a reason to do it."
Radio Ranch Lassos 3 More Clio Awards
Dick Orkin's Radio Ranch is not a place where radios mosey around in corrals.
It is, however, a Los Angeles production company that last week won three Clio awards for its radio commercials--the most any production house has won single-handedly in years.
But as far as Orkin is concerned, it's just a few more to add to the collection. "I stopped counting a few years ago," he said of the number of Clio awards his company has won since he founded the business in 1971. Orkin estimates, however, that his production company has played a role in 75 Clio awards.
None of his latest Clio-winning radio spots--for a food chain, a health-care company and a hotel chain--are broadcast in the Los Angeles area. But all of them have comedy at their core. One of the winners, for the Kroger grocery chain, features a woman at a party who keeps taking two photographs of each guest. Her husband finally reminds her that at Kroger, she can get two prints for the price of one.
"The trick to comedy advertising," said the 54-year-old Orkin, "is you don't just string a bunch of gags together." He said the jokes must constantly tie in to the theme of the ad. His agency also creates radio spots for the Wall Street Journal and TV Guide.