Remember Preston?

Ever since the sad news came through about Lynda Bellingham’s death from cancer, I’ve been waiting for the right time to write a blog about her amazing contribution to the Oxo brand between 1983 and 1999. But then I read about this gentleman who has created a (surprisingly excellent) portrait of Lynda using just Oxo cubes and water  and realised I was being absurdly over-sensitive. There’s nothing unseemly about the fact that Lynda’s memory is seen through the flavoursome filter of meaty stock. She was a much-loved performer not despite her performance in the Oxo ads but in part because of them.

Most creative briefs these days mandate a ‘social’ idea that will spark conversation and participation; yet here is a campaign that launched before Mark Zuckerberg was a twinkle in his parents’ eye delivering exactly that 31 years later.

If you’ve re-watched any of those ads since Lynda’s death you’ll have been reminded of the superb scripts, the subtle acting and how the brand is woven into a long-running family saga. As Lynda’s fans clamour for those ads to be re-run we should stop and wonder how many other brands have ads that people would love to see again and that live on so vividly in the public’s long-term memory. It can be dangerous to dissect but we can safely say that they obey some crucial rules we’ve learned about branding:

  1. Emotion. All emotions. This is a family that adores each other but that also bickers and sulks.
  2. Forget the ‘message’. Oxo’s benefits are never explicitly stated; they are implicit in the family’s warmth and pleasure in each other’s company.
  3. Long-running story-telling. Sixteen years with the same characters and actors. That’s commitment.
  4. Dialogue. Real people talking to each other. Yes, music is a key part of many successful ads but dialogue is woefully underused in this era of global campaigns.

We often say that brand equity is what will deliver future profits for companies. But investment in brand advertising is being squeezed in favour of short-term returns. And long-term econometric analysis is being abandoned, with brands thinking that just ‘counting’ the short-term actions will suffice. Well, I’d love to calculate the true ROI on 30 year old ads that still resonate so powerfully for their brands.

Above all, Lynda and Oxo show us that creating advertising that people like, love and want to see again is both possible and supremely worth the effort.

And, if you want to learn more about creating magic on TV, come to our free event on Nov 13th where we have assembled a stunning cast of creatives and marketers, including the directors of John Lewis’s brilliant Monty the penguin ad and the much anticipated Sainsbury’s Christmas ad. Details here.


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