Top 10 1970s Ad Campaigns and What You Can Learn From Them
Have you ever been watching 1970s ad campaigns, wondering how people come up with ideas? If you were alive during that era, you can still hear many of those phrases or jingles in your head.
Subtle humor was a staple in advertising campaigns back then, and it still works today.
A great ad headline can take a product to the top. The 70s saw many successful slogans reaching target audiences. Products sold and the slogans stuck in our heads for years. Company’s use catch phrasing to develop brand recognition in marketing and advertising campaigns.
If you envision yourself as a successful copywriter, keep reading. We are going to share some of the best ad campaigns launched in the 1970s.
Once you’ve skimmed the best ad campaign material from the 1970s, we hope you're inspired to put pen-to-paper with a copywriting course at the San Francisco School of Copywriting. We take aspiring writers and build their confidence in penning the written word.
1. Life Cereal—Mikey Likes It
Life cereal promoted itself as a healthy breakfast product for women to maintain their figure. Changing the target audience, the advertising agency of Doyle, Dane Bernbach took a different angle by promoting the cereal to a younger generation.
What they created was a blockbuster hit. The advertisement grabs everyone’s hearts with two brothers fighting over who is going to try this healthy cereal.
They push it down the table to 4-year old Mikey, only to discover “he likes it!”
This ad became one of the longest-running ads on TV, lasting about 14 years before going off in 1987.
This campaign was created long before the internet, but its heart-appeal still hits home today, with more than one million viewers checking out the ad on YouTube.
2. Burger King—Have It Your Way
Needing to set themselves apart from McDonald's, Burger King came out with the “have it your way” campaign in 1974.
Their ads put emphasis on fixing burgers the way you like them. This slogan was perfect because the emphasis was on individual needs.
People took a liking to “have it your way” so well that the campaign was brought back. The company chose ads from their original agency, Crispin, Porter & Borgusky for a second run in 2004.
Russ Klein, global marketing officer of Burger King, said the reason for going back to the earlier campaign is when you have a successful ad campaign only the foolish go against it.
3. Pepsi-Cola—The Pepsi Challenge
In 1975 Pepsi came out with the Pepsi Challenge, one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history.
Challenge was asking people to do a blind taste comparison between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. The original reason Jim Davie, founder of Davie Brown Entertainment, devised the test was to determine if the south really loved Coca-Cola for its taste or because of good marketing.
The result of the taste test is most Americans prefer Pepsi over Coke. Only 47% of Coke drinkers guessed correctly, but 86% of Pepsi drinkers selected the correct beverage.
The ad was so successful it ran for about 35 years. It set things in Pepsi's favor with so much momentum Coke had to change its focus to improving their product.
4. American Express—Don’t Leave Home Without Them
It was 1975 when American Express began a promotion for American Express traveler’s checks, remember those? Before credit card use was popular for travel, people would get traveler’s checks from their bank to use on a trip.
The campaign tag words “don’t leave home without them was one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time, running from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s.
The ad was the creation of Ogilvy & Mather, and the ads featured celebrity sponsor Karl Malden.
The ad campaign's success was re-worked and continued in use with the company moving from the phrase "don’t leave home without them” (the checks) to “don’t leave home without it” (the card).
5. Yellow Pages—Let Your Fingers Do the Walking
The term “let your fingers do the walking” became the catchphrase for using the yellow pages. The campaign was the brainstorm of Stephen Baker, art director for the advertising agency, Cunningham & Walsh.
People need to walk their fingers through the book rather than their feet around town.
The “walking fingers” became the most famous symbol never trademarked. AT&T didn't apply for copyright or federal trademark registration.
They didn't consider a three-finger walk to be solely owned.
The symbol is now iconic as the official symbol of yellow page directories everywhere.
BellSouth tried to take that privilege away by filing an application to register the walking finger in 1984. More than 20 entities filed an opposition to BellSouth’s application.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied BellSouth’s application.
The Office said that the mark has become a generic indicator of yellow pages and will remain that.
6. Oscar Mayer—The Little Fisherman
In the 1970s an adorable little 4-year old boy on a dock holding a fishing pole and a bologna sandwich captured our hearts.
He sat there singing “My bologna has a first name, its O-S-C-A-R, my bologna has a second name, it's it’s M-A-Y-E-R…”
The unforgettable jingle created by ad agency J. Walter Thompson can still be sung by many today.
Playing for about 10 years, the estimation is those ads made little Andy more than $100,000 in revenue.
7. Coca-Cola—I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke
Coke hopped on the 1970s peace movement when it came out with an ad that said “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony" and "I’d like to buy the world a coke.”
Wanting to end the Vietnam war, people related to the ad's peaceful feel. Bill Backer, creative director for the Coca-Cola account of the McCann Erickson advertising agency, found inspiration in an airport. A forced landing in Shannon, Ireland because of fog left passengers irritable.
Baker saw a group laughing and socializing over snacks and bottles of coke. His vision of people using “let’s have a coke” as a way to pause and enjoy each other’s company grew into the commercial.
Rather than promoting Coca-Cola as a refreshing beverage, he was promoting a way to build commonality between people of all nationalities and races.
Following the ad's July 1971 release, the Coca-Cola Company received more than 100,000 letters in support of the commercial. Radio shows were receiving “requests” for the jingle.
Production of a comparable record became a top 10 hit. Coca-Cola donated its first $80,000 in royalties from the song to UNICEF as part of an agreement with the writers.
8. Perrier—More Quenching, More Refreshing, and a Mixer Par Excellence
Today we don’t give a thought to purchasing water in a bottle. In the 1970s people weren't spending money on something that came out of their faucet.
Then a Frenchman, Gustave Leven began promoting fizzy water in green bottles. After a successful mass advertising campaign in France, Levin was ready to hit the U.S.
Bruce Nevins, a marketing executive, came up with an idea that began with a 1977 television ad campaign.
Orson Wells' voice let viewers know that the bubbling stream of water flowing from the green bottle was “more quenching, more refreshing, and a mixer par excellence, Perrier.”
The campaign’s main target was well-to-do baby boomers. The message was if you want to show status, partake in the sophisticated and classy Perrier sparkling waters.
The campaign was successful. In 1975 Perrier sold about 2.5 million bottles and were approaching 75 million by 1978. Sales continued growing for 10 years, reaching 300 million bottles per year.
9. Alka-Seltzer—I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing
There is nothing more miserably funny than a man sitting on the edge of a bed in 1972 saying “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” over and over while you hear his wife repeating “you ate it, Ralph.”
Howie Cohen relied on personal experience to write the ad. After a successful ad campaign, his celebration dinner of lobster, chicken, steak, and pasta left him stuffed.
The way he felt came out of his mouth came “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. The scene came together with Milt Moss playing the over-stuffed miserable man.
This Alka-Seltzer tagline became a cultural advertising phenomenon. Two years later they came out with another blockbuster of “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” That line is the verbalization of those tablets dropping into a glass of water and fizzing as they dissolve.
10. Budweiser—This Bud’s for You
The “This Bud’s for You” campaign hit the mark with the middle-class target audience. The inspiration of D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles features a group of men and women working hard, then leaving at the end of the day.
The catchy tune plays “This bud’s for you, there’s no one who does it quite the way you do….”
That commercial led sales to soar and Budweiser to claim over 35% of the U.S. beer market.
The tagline stuck for two decades while momentum grew, taking sales from 35 million barrels to 86 million barrels.
Key Takeaways From 1970s Ad Campaigns
The best ad campaign for marketing in the 70s had several key takeaways. This includes a catchy slogan that becomes a catchphrase, making it a point of cultural reference when reaching the target audience.
Sending a message via advertisements can change the way the public thinks about that company or product.
Look how Perrier changed America's viewpoint on bottled water. Techniques used in 1970s ad campaigns still apply today.
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