Oscars Week: ‘Pardon me’ Grey Poupon ad brings back the ‘80s

This year’s Oscars are expected to rival the Super Bowl as a venue for show-stopping (heh) advertisements. A New York Times article this week said advertisers are paying ABC the highest prices since 2008 for commercials during the Academy Awards. And more advertisers are equating the Oscars with the Super Bowl as a showcase for new ad campaigns that viewers will treat as prime fodder for their Twitter and Facebook accounts. 


Among the brands planning to unveil new ads during Sunday’s Academy Awards is Grey Poupon, which is bringing back its iconic “Pardon Me” campaign 32 years after the original aired.  The new 30-second spot, titled “The Chase,” shows “lost footage” of what happened after the Grey Poupon from one man in a Rolls was shared with another man in a Rolls.

Maybe this is a good moment to remember Grey Poupon as a culturally significant condiment.

In a 2004 New Yorker article about ketchup, Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “In the early seventies, Grey Poupon was no more than a hundred-thousand-dollar-a-year business. Few people knew what it was or how it tasted, or had any particular desire for an alternative to French’s or the runner-up, Gulden’s. Then one day the Heublein Company, which owned Grey Poupon, discovered something remarkable: if you gave people a mustard taste test, a significant number had only to try Grey Poupon once to switch from yellow mustard. In the food world that almost never happens; even among the most successful food brands, only about one in a hundred have that kind of conversion rate. Grey Poupon was magic.”


It was Manhattan ad agency Lowe Marschalk that came up with the ads featuring a man in the back seat of a Rolls on a country road, with a plate of beef on a silver tray and a chauffeur who hands back a jar of Grey Poupon. Then another Rolls pulls up and a man leans his head out the window and says, “Pardon me. Would you have any Grey Poupon?”

In any city in which the ad ran, sales of Grey Poupon spiked. Those ads helped prove mustard didn’t have to be acid-bright yellow and sparked a condiment revolution -- why we see so many mustards (and ketchups and hot sauces and ... ) on supermarket shelves today.

Will Sunday’s new ad prove as pivotal? Probably not. But maybe it will be something to tweet about.



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