(One of my favorite taglines of all time)
Nike ditched Just Do
It last year. Apparently, they thought it too harsh for today’s soft generation,
replacing it, temporarily, with the gooier Find
Your Greatness. If sitting on your couch with your hand down your Nike sweatpants
cupping your balls which watching “Archer” is “your greatness,” well then, just fucking do it.
is what Nike’s “vice president of digital sport,” Stefan Olander, said about tossing aside the three words that built his company and are
still directly paying his bloated salary:
“People now demand us not to say, ‘Just do
it.’ They say, ‘Help me just do it.’”
Nike. We’ll Help You
Just Do It.
Dan Wieden, founding creative partner of Nike’s ad agency
Wieden & Kennedy, wrote Just Do It
in 1988. Wieden wrote hundreds of taglines before he happened upon the famous
last words of executed murderer Gary Gilmore: “Let’s do it.” It was, literally,
a killer tagline.
Apple used to be the Think
Different company. Now they’re the “tagline-less” company. And boy does it
show, with their scattershot, rudderless marketing “plan” full of “cinematic”
disconnected masturbatory spots.
Many young industry “experts” think the death of the tagline
is a good thing, that it’s better for “flexible branding” (one of the latest meaningless
marketing buzz phrases). That’s just poppycock. A great tagline can still instantly
separate a brand from the competition, and grow the company stronger than any fake
prankvertising video or #hashtag.
But coming up with a good campaign tied off perfectly by a
great tagline takes a lot of hard work, talent, and time—three things today’s
ad agencies have a shortage of. Plus, marketers are less concerned about brand
image, and too concerned about brand “mentions,” to the detriment of their
In honor of the dying art of ad and tagline copywriting,
let’s have a grand memorial service for some of the greatest straplines in
Perdue: It Takes A
Tough Man To Make A Tender Chicken.
Frank Perdue was a small town chicken farmer from Maryland. His
widow, Mitzi, told the fascinating story of the hatching of the tagline to AdAge
Perdue came to New York City and interviewed 66 agencies,
creating a finalist list of six. Then, he started calling all the clients of
these agencies, much to the agencies’ consternation. He told one irritated
agency president why: “Because
I can't tell by looking in your eyes whether you are a priest or a crook."
ended up picking Scali McCabe Sloves. Advertising Hall of Fame copywriter Ed
McCabe told Perdue, upon winning the business: "You know, Frank, I'm not
even sure I want your account any more because you're such a pain in the
for the tagline was planted right that moment.
had ever advertised brand name chicken before 1971. In addition to writing the
line, McCabe also convinced Perdue to appear in his own TV spots, one of the
first CEOs to do so (Here’s 10 of the spots). I think it helped that
Perdue kind of looked like a chicken. Did the tagline work? With an ad budget
of $200,000, Perdue’s sales doubled within a year.
Processing Board: Got Milk?
reemphasized that grammar is mostly unimportant in ad copywriting. The short,
sweet tagline, which debuted in 1993, was just replaced a couple of months ago
with the stupid pun Milk Life. Got
Milk? by itself wasn’t remarkably clever, but the ads that set it up were
consistently brilliant, never more so than the very first campaign spot, “Aaron
Burr” (above)—easily the best thing Michael Bay has ever directed.
Another hilarious, industry-famous spot, “Wheelbarrow,” so enraged then California Governor Gray Davis
that he asked for it to be removed from the air. In it, kids refuse to drink
their milk—until they see their old man neighbor’s arms fall off.
The campaign was created by San Francisco agency Goodby
Silverstein & Partners. The tagline also spawned hundreds of “milk
mustache” print ads. And just like Just Do It, it became part of American
culture and was parodied endlessly.
Federal Express: When
It Absolutely Positively Has To Be There Overnight.
The tagline lived from 1978-83, but it was the above 1981
spot, maybe the funniest commercial ever produced, that indelibly sold the
slogan and made FedEx a major shipping player. New York City ad agency Ally
Gargano came up with the idea to use John “Motormouth” Moschitta, Jr. The ad
was directed by the great Joe Sedelmeier, who also shot the
Wendy’s “Where’s The Beef?” commercial.
FedEx’s current tagline is the utterly forgettable The World On Time.
Avis: We’re #2, We
In 1962, Avis was in
fact not actually number two in the car rental industry. They were number four or
five. They were failing, terribly. Enter Doyle Dane & Bernbach and their
legendary We Try Harder ads.
The ugly, type-heavy layouts that delivered uncomfortable truths tested miserably. No
cars in the layouts—they must have been insane! Within a year, Avis had in fact
climbed to number two, and was gaining fast on Hertz. DDB took the company’s main weakness and
turned it into the number one selling point, driven home again and again by
that inspiring tagline: WE TRY HARDER.
Great advertising with
a great tagline almost always has worked. And it still would work, despite what
dodgy-metrics-chasing digital no-nothing dickheads would have you believe.
Sure, they are some fair taglines around today. Jet Blue’s You Above All is nice, and it’s
reinforced by industry customer service surveys. But the airline doesn’t do
enough with it, creatively, to make it great.
BMW still uses the classic The Ultimate Driving Machine, But only sporadically, and their ads
have no Big Idea central concept. Kit Kat’s Have A Break is solid and successful.
But the era of the Great American Tagline is most certainly
dead. Today’s clueless, flailing marketing executives have no patience to carefully
build their brands. And the new digital ad shops have a Svengali-hold on the
marketers with their fast-response, creatively substandard, here today gone
later today, social media shit-content.
copyranter: The Best Fucking Ad Critic In The World™