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Iconic adverts: Tricks for creating an unforgettable food and drink advert

food and drink advert

Attention grabbing slogans, quotable scripts, a sense of urgency or perhaps even rebellion. Such campaigns are a window into an intriguing world of marketing potential and creative possibilities. They’re the ads that give us something to talk about.

But how do adverts achieve cult status? Why do certain campaigns unexpectedly strike a chord while others do not? In this five-part series, we’re on a mission to find out.

Our comparative methodology

Brands and agencies are using our text analysis software to measure the qualitative impact and effectiveness of their advertising efforts. Throughout this series, we aim to reveal the components of iconic campaigns across five distinct industries – Health and Beauty, Technology, Food and Drink, Retail and Other.

For part three in our series, we’ll be exploring what makes a memorable food and drink advert.

To identify the adverts which have become legendary amongst the public, we conducted a survey. We asked people to name the trailblazer campaigns that have made a lasting impact on them and explain why.

Based on these responses, we segmented the answers by industry and then gathered YouTube comments, social media commentary and forum discussions around each campaign. For the food and drink segment, we chose to analyse classic campaigns from Cadbury’s, Coca-Cola, Hovis and Budweiser amongst others.

Next, we uploaded the text data to Relative Insight, comparing comments around each advert to all others in the category. This gave us powerful insight into what resonates with the consumer and helped us to pinpoint key tricks for creating the perfect food and drink advert.

Coca-Cola, Hilltop (I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke)

1. Use a memorable song with a key message

Released in 1971, the melody behind Coca-Cola’s Hilltop campaign“I’d like to teach the world to sing” – immediately struck a chord with viewers. The soft-drinks goliath received 100,000 letters regarding the commercial, with viewers pleading radio stations to play the song. In our analysis, we found this to be true of today’s viewers, who were 5.7x more likely to mention the song or jingle, and their memories associated with it.

2. Bring people together through advertising

When discussing the Coca-Cola “Hilltop” advert, consumers were 6.9x more likely to reflect on the ad’s ability to bring people together. Words such as unity, come together, and peace appeared frequently in the comments. The ads that we hail as iconic divert from the norm to create something that can be shared and experienced by many. This campaign even resonates today, after months of being kept apart due to COVID-19.

“I think coke should replay this over the air during these uncertain times to bring people together once again.”


Budweiser, Whassup

3. Write a quotable script

One of the main reasons that Budweiser’s Whassup” campaign became iconic can be owed to its quotable script. The adverts show four friends “watching the game, having a bud” building up to a crescendo of all friends shouting “whassup” over the phone. Our analysis showed that this is exactly what left a lasting impression on viewers, who quoted various lines from the commercial in their comments.

“Just watchin the game, havin a bud…”
“True, true”


4. Create comedy that is timeless

When discussing Budweiser’s campaign, consumers were 14.5x more likely to comment on the ad’s timeless comedy value, using phrases such as never gets old, still funny, still hilarious. This shows that food or drink adverts that genuinely make people laugh infiltrate the consumer’s memory, creating an association between happy emotions and the product being sold.

Cadbury’s, Gorilla

5. Go off the beaten “branded” track

Cadbury’s Gorilla advert was a journey of unexpectedness. Consumers called it magic, creative, genius. There was no reason for a gorilla to be drumming Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” solo, with absolutely no mention of Cadbury’s or chocolate. But this randomness is exactly what cemented the ad in pop culture. It created intrigue and joy, like the simple pleasure of chocolate.

“There’s something about a gorilla drumming his heart out that puts in you in the mood for a creamy bar of Cadbury chocolate”


6. Epic costume design

Produced in 2007, the advert wouldn’t have been possible without the gorilla’s animatronic suit – an aspect which consumers spoke about when reviewing this ad. The attention to detail in the costume design makes the gorilla appear realistic, a key component to the ad’s success.

Hovis, Boy on the bike

7. Use a warming, friendly accent for the voice over

Voted Britain’s most iconic ad, Hovis’s Boy on the bike originally aired in 1973. Our analysis found that viewers appreciated the voice and accent of the narrator, debating whether the accent was West country or Yorkshire. If you want to reach an audience, employ a narrator with a soothing, homely accent, that will evokes memories of home, and live fondly in the minds of viewers.

Got Milk?

8. Create entertainment that appeals to the family

The Got Milk? campaign was an American ad series that encouraged viewers to drink more milk. The adverts saw characters catapulted into random scenarios, where having no milk ends up in catastrophe. Our analysis found that viewers enjoyed the obscure, entertaining aspects of these commercials, but mostly because re-enacting scenes brought laughter to their family. Clearly, adverts that become synonymous with real family memories enable it to be memorialised in a personal way.

“Used to joke around in the family every time our mouths were full “ Aanmn Brrrr!”


Carl’s Jr girls

9. Racy advertising

Over the years, Carl’s Jr has deployed a racy marketing strategy and produced some of the sexiest burger ads around. With the likes of Paris Hilton, Kate Upton and Kim Kardashian featuring in overtly sensual commercials, it’s no wonder that viewers comment hot, sexy and sex sells on these adverts. Although controversial, what made these ads so iconic was that Carl’s Jr appealed to their core demographic: men. While objectifying women for the purpose of advertising isn’t a method to replicate, it represents a point in time were doing so was popular.  

Food and drink adverts are some of the most recognisable in the world, which gives them a unique staying power. The best ads consist of humour and emotion, an obscure narrative, scripts we can quote, scenes we can act and songs that bring us together. But what’s clear is that iconic food and drink adverts are those that we associate with our personal memories, the ones that are ingrained in our memory and embedded in our social culture.

Check back next week for part four.