Don’t laugh, this ad for Oil Of Olay is the real reason why I’m in advertising today. It wasn’t Apple’s 1984 or VW’s Lemon ad, nope it was this corny TV spot that I obsessively loved. Even today I still adore the Top Gun-esque scene where the beautiful woman is mistaken for a classmate. The kicker – Bugsy Brown! What a great line! As a kid I was sold. I even reenacted the scene with Barbie and Ken in my closet.
What I love about this ad is that it’s not good. In fact it’s pretty schmaltzy, but it sticks. Bad ads do. The cheesier the acting, the faker the scene, the phonier the dialogue, the harder it is to get out of your brain. That doesn’t make it a “good” ad, but it does make it memorable. When I was kid I begged my Mom for Oil Of Olay. I even remember them leaving a full-size bottle on everyone’s doorstep as a promotion. It smelt like old lady but Barbie didn’t mind.
The net-net is, bad ads can actually work. They definitely help you remember the product. For example there is this hilarious Enterprise Rental ad on TV (I swear it’s been on for decades), where a woman is picked up in the rental car and in a super happy voice she chirps, “This is great”. The magic moment for me is her delivery, her “This is great”, is really terrible and over done, but it’s so easy to imitate. Now every time I say, “This is great” I do my best impression of this ad without even thinking about it. What’s more telling of it’s stickyness is that when I need a rental car on holiday I instantly think of Enterprise.
It’s obvious that I have a thing for bad ads. Don’t worry I can recognize a great one when I see it too. It’s the middle of the road that totally passes me by. For Dashboard going for the gold is always our goal, but going for ‘Bugsy Brown’ would be a personal creative coup too.