Fears about millennium apathy and the effects of the bug mean most
advertisers are keeping a low profile for the year 2000 celebrations.
But the few that have risen to the occasion with appropriate campaigns
claim to be reaping the rewards of their commitment and vision. What’s
more, since the predicted celebratory clutter has failed to materialise,
those who have dared take up the theme are enjoying the spotlight on a
relatively clear stage.
The best campaigns have taken a very human approach, employing themes of
warmth, celebration, humour and people’s awareness of this unique
historical milestone, and the theme has inspired many different
treatments. Ford has focused on the emotional links between
nationalities and cultures to make a global impact last month when it
launched a two-minute ’anthem to our customers’ throughout the
The campaign, by J. Walter Thompson, Detroit, showed moving vignettes of
people saying hello and goodbye according to their customs, backed by an
evocative soundtrack sung by Charlotte Church.
’The warm response has been overwhelming,’ Michelle Cervantez, Ford’s
corporate advertising manager, says. ’It was a very appropriate gesture
for Ford to make.’
Procter & Gamble’s global Pringles ’conga’ commercial by Grey UK also
takes up the multi-cultural theme but creates a celebratory mood. Tim
Mellors, the creative director of Grey, explains: ’Pringles are really a
natural for millennium parties. We added the hook of this year’s biggest
international hit, Mambo Number Five, and produced an ad that’s
’Conga’ starts with surfers on a beach who start a conga to celebrate
the millennium. It’s taken up by Chelsea pensioners, African women, a
little Italian boy, a Chinese family and ends up at the Rio
In New Zealand, the first country to enter the year 2000, there is a lot
of advertising and marketing activity around the date, but two of the
country’s biggest companies, TV One and Telecom NZ, have virtually
hijacked the event by creating the NZ Challenge, the largest
communications project ever held in the country.
Thought up by their mutual agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, Auckland, the
Challenge will video thousands of New Zealanders talking about their
thoughts and hopes for the new century. This, together with live
coverage of the New Year celebrations around the country, will be
broadcast for 24 hours at the New Year. ’The idea of creating this
unique archive of a nation’s feelings at the millennium has swept the
country,’ Geoff Vuleta, the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi,
The appeal of being first to enter the new millennium was too much for
Euro RSCG to resist: it will be promoting itself with the first TV
commercial to be broadcast on the planet in the 21st century. The ad
will be shown in the Chatham Islands off New Zealand - the first
landmass to witness the millennium’s dawn - at 12.01 on 1 January, 2000,
and will feature famous firsts.
Other advertisers have sought a more personal note with which to inspire
and attract customers. The Metro department store in Singapore is
running a campaign through M&C Saatchi which encourages the
Singaporeans, who are notoriously rude, to be more polite to one
another. Huw Griffith, the chief executive of M&C Saatchi, Singapore,
says: ’It’s attracted a lot of attention and customers to the
De Beers diamonds and JWT Worldwide are making the most of the
once-in-a-1,000-years sales opportunity with a global marketing
programme featuring two ad campaigns targeting the East and the West
separately. Westerners will see a romantic, celebratory New Year
commercial, backed up by witty press ads. In the East, where diamonds
are valued as collectables, a TV campaign introduced a hallmarked ’2000’
range, with tiny diamonds as the zeros.
Given the marketing and advertising potential of the millennium, there
is now some surprise that more companies have not taken advantage of the
opportunity. ’There’s no doubt many consumers are suffering from
millennium apathy, and that in turn has permeated through to
advertisers,’ Charles Courtier, the managing director of Media Edge,
Young & Rubicam’s global media company, says. Fear, particularly on the
part of technology-based products and services like the
telecommunications, airlines and automotive sectors, is another factor.
Courtier adds: ’No matter how year 2000-compliant companies are, they
are still faced with consumer mistrust.’
Some advertisers, however, have felt confident enough to tackle the
issue head-on, resorting to that age-old human response to fear and
uncertainty - humour.
The Kia Motors America campaign by Goldberg Moser O’Neill of San
Francisco urges people not to panic, but to say Y2K - ’Yes to Kia’.
Toyota’s TV spot by Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, shows the lights
going out all over the city as midnight strikes. Then car headlights cut
through the darkness as the bug-free Corolla starts up. Scott Gilbert,
the chief executive of Saatchis’ LA agency, says: ’It was an opportunity
to showcase the Corolla’s reliability in a topical, fun way. It was very
relevant to the brand.’
According to Nike’s vice-president of US marketing, Mike Wilskey, the
millennium disaster hype was ’just asking to be lampooned’. Its
60-second ’morning after’ commercial by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland,
shows a runner getting up on 1 January with a millennium-sized hangover,
but still putting on the running gear and taking to the streets. Focused
on his daily workout, he is oblivious to the surrounding mayhem as the
world’s computer systems crash.
The end of the world may be nigh - but whatever disaster hits us in Y2K,
it’s not going to stop Nike from seeking higher sales.