Hey, Whipple!

Published by Jackie Barrie on

After having this book recommended to me for years, I’m finally reading “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This” by Luke Sullivan, originally published in 1998. The sub-title is “A guide to creating great advertising” and the third edition (2008) covers ‘new media’ and DRTV.

Now, in 2021, nearly 2022, we don’t call it ‘new media’ any more. Either way, there’s a chapter that resonated with what I say about audience engagement. Here are some of the key points (edited slightly to make it easier to read online):

Invite the customer to play

Instead of just saying something to passive viewers, why not make them active participants in your communication. Have them do something – something fun.

Involving the customer in the life of the brand is more than just a fun tactic, it’s the way more things will be done in the future. Advertising was once exclusively the client’s game; they broadcast their message to the masses and then waited to count the money. What was once a client-push strategy is becoming consumer-pull; particularly with younger customers who are increasingly experiencing brands through channels that are two-way.

The attachment of younger people to their mobile phones, to the Web, and to texting is just the beginning of a sea change in advertising, where the metrics for success will be less about the number of “consumer impressions” and more about consumer involvement.

The Web is, of course, the ultimate interactive medium… but interactivity is not limited to the online world. Examples of inviting the customer to play include:

  • IKEA put furniture on the public sidewalk of the Toronto train station with notes reading ‘Steal me’
  • Mars asked viewers to help them come up with their next colour for M&M’s
  • Audi asked America to help them find a missing vehicle
  • Doritos asked viewers to submit finished commercials to air on the Super Bowl.
  • Dove posted a billboard asking passers-by to vote on their idea of beauty by using their cellphones, and then posted the results of the poll in real time
  • KFC ran a TV spot with a promotional code buried in a single frame. Meanwhile, in a separate print and Web campaign, they told viewers to play back the spot frame by frame on their digital video recorders to find the code and its accompanying coupon

What this means to you

The book was prescient. It does seem that involving the customer has become more common since the third edition was published.

The ‘younger people’ mentioned in the chapter are now older. They’ve grown up used to the idea of experiential marketing and advertising. They expect to have an ‘experience’ when they go shopping, and when they attend your business presentations too.

The concept of ‘consumer-pull’ also applies to audiences at online, offline and hybrid events. It’s not all about top-down broadcasting of your message. It’s more about bottom-up involvement of your participants. So… let them participate!

Making them do something fun is a more effective way of getting your message across. You’ll find loads of ideas about how to do that in my books, hint, hint.

P.S. You might be wondering, “Who is Whipple?” I know I did. He was a character in an TV ad for toilet paper. He’d tell customers in his grocery store not to squeeze the Charmin and then furtively squeeze the rolls himself. The ads were ranked among the most disliked in the 1970s, but the product was number 1 in sales.

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