Google's Project Re:Brief – Old Advertising Is Made New Again

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Internet advertising turns 18 years old in 2013. While this might be cause to celebrate for advertisers, many users are simply bored with it and becoming increasingly smarter at finding ways to opt out of Internet ads. Enter Google’s new campaign Re:Brief.

Re:Brief aims to re-envision some of the most captivating print and television ads from decades past. Google selected four iconic campaigns: Avis’ “We Try Harder,” Volvo’s “Drive It Like You Hate It,” Coca-Cola’s “Hilltop” and Alka Seltzer’s “I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing.” Google then asked the marketing creatives behind these legendary print and television ads to update their campaigns for the digital age. This is a turn reminiscent of AMC’s television hit “Mad Men,” which turned to an old ad man, Brian Sanders, to develop a print ad for the show’s sixth season.

Inside the Campaigns 

Avis’ “We Try Harder” was the 1962 brainchild of copywriter Paula Green. The phrase is still in use today. The re-envisioned campaign took a customer-forward perspective by asking customers to write in about their experiences. Written testimonials are instantly transformed into animated videos the customer can watch. Together, the videos illustrate the truth behind Avis’ slogan.

Alka Seltzer’s “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing” became an instant classic when it first appeared in 1972, and it found its way onto an episode of “The Simpsons,” Newsweek’s “best quotes of the decades” list and the Trivial Pursuit board game. The updated ads take the lead character, Ralph, and follow him to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Google weather and StreetView tailor the ad to the user’s climate, time of day and location for a geo-specific ad experience that maintains the fun nature of the original.

Volvo’s “Drive It Like You Hate It,” was used in 1962 to introduce Americans to this new Swedish car, a car with an average life span of 11 years, twice that of American automobiles at that time. The ad features a race car driver putting a Volvo to the test. Consumer response was amazing, and American Volvo sales tripled in 5 years. The updated ad tells the story of Irv Gordon, who bought his first Volvo in 1966. Since then, he has driven the car 2.9 million miles. The ad follows Irv on his quest to break the 3 million-mile mark with his Volvo, a true testament to the car company’s slogan.

Coke makes good use of old and new advertising methods

If you know the song “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” you know Coca Cola’s “Hilltop” ads. The campaign’s message of peace and harmony was most welcome when it debuted in 1971. The re-envisioned ad actually allows users to buy people across the world real Cokes. Receivers can type a thank you message back, truly connecting the world.

Can It Succeed?

This campaign certainly has the nostalgia factor going for it. Millennials aside, users should remember the catchy jingles and slogans and just may watch the whole ad for nostalgia alone. New digital and resources allow direct marketing integration, which may allow the ads to appear on television, too.

Time will tell whether the project will create change in advertising. The ads are available for watching on the Project Re:Brief website, should you want to relive history by watching the originals or make history by participating in the new interactive ads.

Photo by Flickr user gui ambros

Rob Hughes
Paid Search Analyst
Rob Hughes is a Paid Search Analyst at Big Leap who enjoys the creative aspect of online paid advertising. In his free time, Rob is a 3x Intramural Champion, a 17x Intramural Loser, and an avid climber of local mountains.