A head-banging, finger-tapping yellow puppet made a huge mark on
popular culture last year, winning the hearts of the UK public as well
as Campaign’s coveted campaign of the year.
Flat Eric, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, revived the fortunes of Levi
Strauss across Europe, making the brand - and the Sta-Prest range -
’cool’ once again. Levi’s succeeded in shedding the ’Jeremy Clarkson’
effect, which had almost confined high-street denim to the backsides of
The first ad, broadcast last January, showed Eric and his human pal,
Angel, cruising the streets in their car while bopping to a ’dirty
house’ tune. In the second spot they are pulled over by a policeman and
forced to open their boot, which is packed with perfectly pressed
clothes. He lets them drive off and stares forlornly at his creased
shirt. In the third ad, Eric swats a fly on Angel’s trousers, which
Within days of airing the first batch of three commercials, ’ID’, ’fly’
and ’dancing’, Levi’s was inundated with calls and e-mails about the
music and where to buy Flat Eric dolls. Acres of press coverage have
been devoted to deconstructing our fluffy yellow friend, but still the
subculture surrounding Eric defies rational explanation.
A single and a replica toy were rushed into the shops and Flat Beat, the
techno soundtrack, sold 2.5 million copies across Europe. The tune made
number one in the UK, Germany, Norway, Belgium, Austria and Italy.
Flat Eric was one of the first advertising icons to claim an internet
presence. He was originally introduced to 150 ’opinion formers’ through
an unbranded e-mail film and a whole range of Flat Eric e-mails were
doing the rounds last spring. Fans created their own Flat Eric sites and
by May the official site, levi.com, had received 1.1 million hits - more
than in the whole of 1998.
The campaign began as a one-off burst of three ads, but public response
was so overwhelming that Levi’s and BBH brought Eric and Angel back for
a six-week encore in August and September.
In five new commercials, Angel’s Sta-Prest creases remained immaculate
as the duo dodged the police, got squashed by a giant hot dog and took
cover in a mortuary. The second burst took Eric out of the underground
and into the commercial mainstream, with a selection of merchandise on
sale and replica puppets in every shop window. Levi’s promises that Eric
has made his last appearance, cleverly conferring legendary status on
the 20th century hero.
Awards juries liked the Flat Eric work as much as the rest of the
At the Campaign Media Awards, Motive won best use of new media and best
international campaign. At the British Television Advertising Awards, it
won a gold, a silver and two bronze arrows, and in Cannes the television
work picked up two gold lions, while the supporting print campaign
landed five bronze lions.
According to Levi’s, volume sales of Sta-Prest increased dramatically
over a four-month tracking period, growing by 21 times in the UK, 19
times in Italy, six times in Spain and three times in France. BBH had
successfully thrown off the ’boy meets girl’ theme, side-stepped the
embarrassing faux pas of Kevin the dead hamster and discovered a
Most people who go into advertising would kill to be associated with a
campaign that had the impact of Flat Eric. Take a bow Quentin Dupieux,
who directed the films through Partizan Midi Minuit, and the creative
team at BBH - John Hegarty, Nick Gill, Kim Papworth and Tony
Eric and Angel were, however, given a run for their money by HHCL &
Partners’ ’wake-up call’ campaign for Iceland. The agency challenged
consumers’ perceptions of Iceland by treating them as children. Richard
Briers’ voiceover on the commercials asked viewers ’which bit don’t you
understand?’ in a withering tone that had enough bite to counter
accusations of patronising customers.
TV, radio, press and public relations were used to persuade the public
that Iceland sells more than just frozen food and to ram home the
message that it had banned all genetically modified ingredients in May
The Iceland campaign also claims sales success. According to HHCL,
Iceland is the fastest growing national food retailer, with sales up 24
per cent year on year and a share price that peaked at 315p compared
with a low of 77p just three years ago.
Another supermarket, Tesco, was also commended for the enduring
popularity of its advertising. Up against relentless ’rip-off Britain’
media hype and the arrival of Wal-Mart, Lowe Howard-Spink helped Tesco
to retain its market leadership by adapting the ’Dotty’ campaign.
Prunella Scales’ blue-rinsed old biddy successfully conveyed a price
message while holding on to the brand values built up over the previous
Campaign also applauds HHCL’s work for Go, the low-cost airline from
British Airways. The ’spots’ design maintained its freshness as the
airline, which launched in May 1998, became an established player.
Sony PlayStation also continued to cause a stir. TBWA GGT Simons Palmer
maintained the brand’s sinister tone, notably with the impressive and
much talked-about Fifi, the cyber-pixie who told us to ’land on your own
Recent winners: Volkswagen Polo (1998); Volkswagen ’affordability’
(1997); Conservative Party (1996); Miller Pilsner (1995); Wonderbra