November 2017

Recently I was asked what project was the most interesting I have or had ever worked on. Wow. When you have been in the advertising business as long as I have there are so many possibilities. The first commercial I was ever involved in (Tide Laundry Detergent) starred O.J. Simpson. Yup. Who knew? And of course the “celebrities” I got to work with over the years was always a treat…

>Chuck Daily (Fields BMW)
>Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Discount Auto Parts)
>George H. W. Bush
>Loretta Lynn (Duncan Hines)
>Lauren Bacall (High Point Coffee)
>Mark Martin (Discount Auto Parts)
>Mike Ditka (Budget Rent a Car/Trucks)
>O.J. Simpson (Tide Laundry Detergent)
>Oral Hershiser (Fields BMW)
>Shaquille O’Neil (Fields BMW)
>Virginia Christine (Mrs. Olsen for Folgers Coffee)
>General William Westmoreland (Documentary)

But the most interesting would be the campaign I was involved in with Folgers Coffee – Folgers Crystals Instant Coffee.

The objective was to convince heavy coffee drinkers that instant coffee could be every bit as rich and tasteful as a cup of coffee brewed with fresh ground coffee.

The concept was to convince real 5-star restaurants around the county to allow us to come in, take over their restaurant for an evening, build a two-way mirror by which to do our filming, and find out how people would react to drinking instant coffee at the conclusion of their 5-star meal.

How did we get the “real-people”?

P&G invited women in their key coffee demographic to come to a local supermarket (Chicago area if we were shooting the commercial in Chicago) to do some sampling of products. As a reward for participating they would get a stipend for gas as well as dinner for two to a five-star restaurant – we would tell them the date and time they had to visit the restaurant.

Then on the specified night, the entire restaurant was ours. Everything was exactly as it would normally be at the restaurant – staff, chef, menu, etc. – except for the maître d' who was a plant by the agency/P&G. In the breadbaskets at each table were hidden microphones, and of course we were filming from behind a two-way mirror that the agency constructed. As well, to keep the noise level down when the maître d’ approached a particular couple, tables throughout the restaurant were occupied by agency and P&G staffers – so I got to be in the middle of it all and eat an incredible meal at the same time.

When I tell people about my experience during filming of the campaign, they invariably ask if it was all real. YES, it was - the people, the food, the comments, everything. Then they wonder “how that is even possible – it is simply not realistic to think that people would comment so positively about instant coffee.” But consider this:

• Our customers had just eaten a meal at a five-star restaurant – food unlike anything they have ever experienced before; so why would they think the coffee would be any different?
• As well, if you read the instructions on how to make a cup of coffee, you can indeed make a perfect cup of coffee: use distilled water (not tap water); use a teaspoon per cup (we measured it out); boil the water to a distinct temperature (most people burn the water); and voilà, coffee that people thought tasted pretty dang good.
• There was no cheating on our part…truly a perfect cup of coffee after a perfect 5-star meal.

Were there any hiccups? Oh my Yes.

Our pilot test ended up being a disaster. We had not put any stipulations on what our invitees could order at the 5-star restaurant we were filming at – including alcohol – BIG MISTAKE. They ordered cocktails, expensive bottles of wine, and well, by the time dinner and desert was over and the maître d’ entered the picture they were drunk, slurring their words, and we’re loudly obnoxious. The test film was unusable, but a good learning experience.

So, when we moved ahead with “filming” for real at 5-Star Crickets in Chicago, we had informed attendees that alcohol was not included, which pretty much removed drunkenness – most could not afford a bottle of wine at an establishment like this. Of course there were still “moments” that included:

• Really hungry people that kept eating the bread so fast that we were convinced they would find the microphone at the bottom of the basket…
• Producers in the back whispering some really hilarious things in the ear of the maître d’ while he is trying to ask the couple serious questions – too racy for me to share.
• Finding out at the end, after we revealed to each couple (who by the way were all married according to our “supermarket” research) that we had been filming them for a commercial, that they were cheating on their spouse and out with someone they shouldn’t be out with…they absolutely freaked that we had them on film.

In the end the campaign was highly successful and ran for 3 to 4 years. We did commercials at Crickets in Chicago, Arnaud’s in New Orleans, Tavern on the Green in NY and The Maisonette in Cincinnati. We also did a commercial in LA, but I can’t remember the restaurant’s name.

The campaign was different…almost gutsy.
While looking back the commercials seems so old and flat, during the day they were bold and trendy. The talk of the town. And business grew.

What’s the most intriguing project you’ve worked on? Share with us.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison
78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm (advertising agency) located in Orlando-Altamonte Springs Florida.