Ads Played It Again

In advertising this year, what was old was new again, Cold War spies were hot, and the smoking issue continued to smolder. Here's a look at some themes and issues in 1997 advertising, and a look at important changes that will affect Los Angeles agencies in the coming year:

* Nostalgia: Themes from television programs from the 1960s and 1970s found their way into TV commercials in 1997, as advertisers tapped into feelings of nostalgia to pitch products. In a campaign now ended, Levi Strauss & Co. used "I Think I Love You" by the singing TV family the Partridges. The theme from the "Jetsons" cartoon show turned up in ads for America Online. Nostalgia will continue to figure in 1998 pitches as advertisers revive old slogans and images to make an emotional link with consumers. Case in point: the outdoor campaign for Procter & Gamble's Maxwell House using the coffee cup icon.

* Spies: Though the Cold War is over, spies kept turning up in television advertising in 1997 in advance of this month's release of the James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies." Honda, Acura, Advanced Micro Devices, Sheraton Hotels, Oldsmobile and others aired spy-themed commercials.

To that lineup, add BMW and other advertisers officially tied into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Bond movie. Advertisers said spy commercials get attention--AMD spent $1 million on a glitzy, 30-second spy spoof. Honda, sued two years ago for allegedly ripping off Bond films in a commercial, this time licensed music from the 1960s cartoon show Crusader Cat for a commercial that showed a spy choosing a Honda over a souped-up sports car.

* Smoking: A pact between the tobacco industry and its foes would have placed severe restrictions on cigarette ads. Caught up in political controversy, the deal--which would have eliminated outdoor advertising and mandated text-only print ads--has yet to take effect. Meanwhile, cigarette ads have gotten slicker as tobacco firms seek to enhance brand images before they are eventually forced to quit advertising.

R.J. Reynolds ditched its controversial Joe Camel in favor of ads showing attractive women coolly sipping cocktails. Its new slogan: "What you're looking for." Reynolds' "no additives" campaign for Winston irked tobacco foes, who claimed the slogan implied the brand was healthier than others--an assertion Reynolds denied. Brown & Williamson's Kool has replaced traditional outdoor scenes with images of hip young people and a new slogan: "B Kool."

Meanwhile, tobacco foes are rallying on new fronts. Los Angeles County has prepared anti-smoking messages from Los Angeles-based Asher/Gould Advertising to air in theaters. The text-only messages are intended to counteract film images that glamorize smoking. So far, the county has received weak support from theater chains, which contend that moviegoers don't want to see ads.


On the agency front, 1997 brought changes in the Los Angeles advertising scene as key car, computer and fast-food accounts changed hands:

* Mazda North America, in the biggest shift locally, awarded its $240-million account to Michigan-based W.B. Doner, which is setting up shop in Southern California. The business had been handled for 27 years by Foote, Cone & Belding in Santa Ana. FCB lost the account because of conflicts arising from its planned acquisition of the parent of Bozell Worldwide, which handles Chrysler.

* Apple Computer Inc. parted ways from Los Angeles-based BBDO West after 11 tumultuous years. The $60-million account went across town to TBWA Chiat/Day in Venice, which created the famous "1984" Super Bowl ad. The agency got people talking with its celebrity-strewn "crazy ones" spot that included footage of pre-information age heroes, such as Mohandas K. Gandhi.

* TBWA Chiat/Day also picked up creative work on Tricon Global Restaurants' Taco Bell unit, which had been handled by Bozell Worldwide in Costa Mesa. Chiat/Day's win was soon tarnished by rumors that its edgy "Got Some?" ads featuring pink-clad wrestlers and Chihuahuas weren't working. But Taco Bell has said it is sticking with the agency, and new TV spots should hit soon.


Some big changes took place in executive suites:

* Within the Saatchi & Saatchi network, Scott Gilbert left El Segundo-based Team One in late 1997 to head Saatchi & Saatchi Pacific, charged with winning more business from its major client, Toyota Motor U.S.A. Replacing him at Team One was Leonard Pearlstein, a self-employed advertising veteran who handled the Hardee's restaurant account. But Hardee's hasn't yet decided whether to give Team One its business.

* The local ad community was rocked by the October departure of Robert J. Thomas from Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A. in the wake of lackluster auto sales. As president and chief executive of the U.S. arm of the Japanese auto maker, Thomas had championed the "Enjoy the Ride" campaign created by TBWA Chiat/Day that was panned by dealers. The campaign, which is continuing, uses a Japanese actor as an icon for the brand.

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