Great Ad Campaigns: "When EF Hutton Talks"
If you walked into a crowded room of people who watched TV in the 1970s and 1980s and said, “When EF Hutton talks..” you’d probably be greeted with a rapturous chorus of “People listen.”
The brokerage firm launched a series of adverts promoting expert trading advice and encouraging prospective customers to put their trust in the brokers to invest wisely in the stock market.
The slogan became one of the most instantly recognizable brand messages of the time, and still today, the firm is known for its iconic advertising campaign.
The EF Hutton advertising campaign was built around a simple premise. Although the commercials pictured different scenes and locations, the message was always the same.
There would be a conversation or background noise in a glamorous location, which would come to an abrupt end when the central character was about to share information from his broker, EF Hutton.
The idea was to highlight the fact that everyone wants to hear what the expert had to say and that nobody wanted to miss out, no matter how much fun they were having. From restaurants and train carriages to glitzy dinner parties and shows, the plot and script remained the same.
Amid the hustle and bustle, people started to talk about the stock market and when one character utters the words, “My broker is EF Hutton” everybody turns to listen.
The campaign was created by Benton & Bowles, which later became D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B).
A review of the campaign
‘When EF Hutton talks, people listen’ became one of the most significant and well-known advertising slogans of the late 1900s. The campaign itself was straightforward, but it was hugely impactful.
People who talk about advertising, marketing and copywriting still include the EF Hutton campaign in lectures, courses and workshops, and consumers still instantly link the slogan and the idea with the brand.
It has been decades since the adverts went on air, yet they linger in the memory.
The EF Hutton advertising campaign comprised a series of commercials, which featured people out and about enjoying their daily life, often in noisy, social locations.
After the scene is set, the focus turns to people talking and conversation inevitably moves to the stock market. The key moment in every commercial is the character uttering the immortal words, “My broker is EF Hutton.”
At this point in every location, the noise stops and everyone in the scene turns to hear what comes next. The scene is followed by the tagline and the commercial ends.
This memorable campaign featured a number of commercials that represented a variation on a theme.
The advert would start in a restaurant, a theatre stage, a park or a party and then at the sound of those magic words, the world comes to a screeching halt.
Actors freeze, joggers stop mid-stride and diners stop loading their plates to hear the wisdom imparted by the great EF Hutton.
There is no doubt that EF Hutton was responsible for one of the most recognizable and memorable ad campaigns of the 1970s and ‘80s, but what difference did the commercials make in terms of business objectives?
According to Video Stereo Board, a company, which monitors the impact of TV advertising, the EF Hutton talks campaign was by far the most successful within the financial sector.
In terms of monetary value, it was twice as effective as the campaign run by Merrill Lynch.
Senior account executive at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles during the Hutton campaign, David Kreinik, said that recognition of the brand went from “zero to 99% in five years.” (source)
The advertising campaign EF Hutton became synonymous with couldn’t save the brokerage, but its legacy could perhaps influence the way people perceive and remember the brand.
For all of the drama and controversy of the years leading to the company’s demise, many people will still automatically conjure up the slogan and picture the adverts when they hear the words ‘EF Hutton.’
Key lessons for copywriters
Writing successful ads is not easy and there is no set formula or instruction guide.
Every campaign can teach us lessons. Here are some key copywriting lessons to be learned from the EF Hutton advertising campaign:
1. Making the brand stand out and building an identity
One of the most critical commandments for copywriters creating scripts or advertising copy is to make sure that the brand stands out. Most businesses operate within a saturated marketplace, and it is difficult to turn heads.
The most significant takeaway from the EF Hutton ad is the ability to ensure that every single person who sees or hears the slogan knows that it is linked to the EF Hutton brokerage.
Using the name of the brand and providing information about what it does and how it can benefit the consumer creates a distinctive identity and encourages the viewer to want to find out more.
In addition to the script, setting the scene and choosing locations and specific actors adds to the brand identity, ensuring that the ad is targeted towards people who are likely to be interested in the products and services.
The writers of the EF Hutton have used the slogan to set the brand apart and establish connections and reflexes, so that every time a customer hears or sees the words, they know what to expect.
2. Building consumer trust and confidence
In industries like the financial, legal and healthcare sectors, trust is crucial. If consumers are spending money or putting their faith in a brokerage, they want to be sure that they can trust the individual or firm they hire.
The EF Hutton campaign is an excellent example of how to use a commercial to build consumer trust and encourage the audience to form positive associations with the brand.
Surveys suggest that trust comes second only to price when determining what drives decision-making (source).
During the EF Hutton commercials, crowds stop what they are doing and the world stands still to listen to nuggets of information and pearls of wisdom that EF Hutton is about to share through a customer.
Those words are not uttered, but it is evident that everyone trusts the brokerage and they are waiting to hear about the next investment opportunity with bated breath.
The ads make it clear that consumers have confidence in EF Hutton through a simple, fuss-free script and an impactful, effective slogan.
As a copywriter working on advertising campaigns, it’s essential to make sure that the message is clear and that people remember the commercial and the brand.
You want consumers to be able to recall what happened in the advert, but critically, you also want them to be able to remember what the brand name was and what kinds of products or services the campaign was promoting. Repetition is an effective strategy for enhancing brand recognition and recall.
The slogan for EF Hutton is relatively easy to remember after a single viewing, but the fact that it is repeated in every ad makes it even more effective.
Using repetition is a means of connecting customers with the brand and helping them to remember what the campaign was selling.
In the case of EF Hutton, people heard the slogan or started watching the ad and immediately knew it was about a brokerage offering advice for investing in the stock market.
4. Make Viewers feel like they may miss out
The central theme of the EF Hutton ad campaign is everyone turning to listen. The line, “My broker is EF Hutton” prompts a shift in the scene, which causes silence to fall and the characters to pause to hear what comes next.
This is clever not only because it precedes the slogan and mentions the brand name, but also because it triggers an emotional reaction.
If a consumer feels as though everyone is getting in on the action and listening to EF Hutton brokers, there is a good chance that they will want to get involved too. They want a piece of the action and they don’t want to miss out.
Using language to provoke emotional responses can be hugely powerful in advertising, especially in cases where viewers feel like they have to take action or they will miss out on an opportunity.
The call to action begins the moment the central character starts to allude to the fact that he has information from EF Hutton.
5. Using authority to persuade audiences
Most of us seek advice when we have questions or we come across tasks or projects that require specific skills or expertise.
In the financial industry, expertise is key. Consumers want guidance and advice to navigate complex situations, decipher jargon and gain clarity before making decisions.
The EF Hutton ad campaign utilizes authority to persuade audiences to act. It is clear from the commercial that the characters trust the brokerage and they view the brokers as experts and authorities in their field. This helps to persuade audiences to make the same decision and have confidence that choosing EF Hutton is the right choice.
It is particularly beneficial to use authority to build trust and encourage viewers to take action when writing for financial businesses and organizations, as there are risks involved and experts have skills and experience that the target viewer is not likely to possess.
The ad campaign for EF Hutton is one of the most recognizable to this day.
“When EF Hutton talks, people listen” is a slogan etched in the memory of many people, despite the fact that the ads haven’t been on TV for decades and the company no longer exists.
Great ads make an impact and copywriters have a critical role to play in connecting with audiences, encouraging brand recall and triggering emotional reactions.