No, it isn't apocryphal. Yes, it really did bomb in research. In a
classic case of a great execution failing because a strategy was
(wrongly) found to be off-target, it was recommended that the
policeman's feet execution not be made because refreshment was not
"relevant" to the lager market.
The canned product was launched regionally, at first in the West
Country. The initial research gave a lukewarm reaction to the product,
the strategy, and the advertising idea. Full house. But the researcher,
tempted by the theory that the advertising would be liked and talked
about by opinion-formers, ignored all of the findings.
The Maureen Lipman campaign nearly never got made. Research had said
that Beattie, being the stereotypical Jewish grandmother who can never
stop talking, was the one person who could never get people using the
phone more. In fact, research suggested that she was likely to depress
calling volumes, particularly among higher-calling women, who were
likely to distance themselves from her behaviour.
The original research into the "Vorsprung durch technic" campaign lacked
the hugely ironic Geoffrey Palmer voiceover. Without this, the campaign
was felt to take itself too seriously and actually exacerbate
perceptions of Audi drivers trying to get down to the pool first. More
German than the most German BMW driver. So, the Palmer voiceover was
added and all pomposity removed.
People fall into two categories. They either love it or hate it. There
is no in between. One of the ways of making fans even more passionate
about the brand is to show its haters really hating it. This is what the
advertising does. So you could argue that Marmite advertising's success
is down to one key group of people detesting the ads.
6. Heinz Salad Cream.
The ideas behind the recent relaunch campaign were initially felt not to
be "very warming, very motherly, very Heinzy". Given that the brand was
outdated, and peripheral to most modern meal occasions, a radically new
role and tone of voice needed to be shown in the new advertising. So
perhaps it was not surprising that the ideas originally bombed. What was
surprising was that the original report was ignored, and the advertising
The surrealistic Swimming Pool ad was felt to be ahead of its time. It
was certainly ahead of the researcher, who concluded that "without a
line, people wouldn't know what to make of it". So the main point of the
campaign, that as a smoker you have a slightly different take on life,
went straight over his head.
The "1984" commercial's target audience was primarily made up of
independent thinkers. The trouble was that, because of their very
nature, it proved difficult for them to reach a consensus. Because they
couldn't get to a common view on "1984", it was only because of a
particularly headstrong client and agency team that the ad ever got
The Rossiter/Collins campaign was, after the event, found to be so
humorous and involving that people thought it was for Martini. Great
cinema, yes, effective, maybe not. This was endorsed by developmental
research, which said that the medium got in the way of the message.
The Dead Dogs poster campaign courted controversy on purpose. When the
potential power of a horrific image was fully understood, the decision
was taken to deliberately provoke a negative reaction from the target
audience of doggie lovers. People were adamant this advertising should
not be made. The RSPCA made it and successfully got banned from Crufts.