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Nescafe's Golden Blend couple: how would today's marketers reimagine this classic ad campaign?


By Justin Pearse, Managing Director, The Drum Works

April 5, 2016 | 8 min read

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The Reimagining Advertising campaign, created in partnership with GumGum, is asking a panel of ten marketers how they would reimagine seminal ads from the pre-digital age to find out how today’s leading advertising thinkers would reinvent them with the current digital tools at their disposal.

In the fourth in the series, Nicky Bullard, incoming chairman and chief creative officer, MRM Meteorite; Ross Sleight, chief strategy officer, Somo; Malcolm Poynton, global chief creative officer, Cheil Worldwide; and Ben Plomion, SVP Marketing GumGum reimagine Nescafé's classic Gold Blend ad.

The birth of ad storytelling

Today’s advertisers talk about the importance of storytelling. Nescafé all but invented the category with its serialized advertising campaign for Gold Blend coffee. Created by McCann Erickson, the Gold Blend Couple campaign ran in the UK from 1987 to 1993. Later it was rebranded as Taster’s Choice for US consumers.

The ads told the story of Tony and Sharon, two opposites who slowly attract, thanks to their shared love of Gold Blend coffee. The campaign presents the couple with numerous trials and tribulations, with each installment ending in ambiguity. Soon the public couldn’t wait to see what happened next, and new ads received considerable media attention. More importantly, the ads increased UK sales of Gold Blend by an impressive 50%.

Subsequent campaigns featured younger, more career-oriented women. The campaign also gave rise to tie-in products, such as a novel and a video compilation of the ads, along with two CDs.

How would our panelists reimagine these iconic ads?

Machine2Machine Love Story: Nicky Bullard, incoming chairman and chief creative officer, MRM Meteorite

This classic campaign showed how Nescafe Gold Blend brought Tony and Sharon together. So, to take it to the tech future, I’d make this a machine2machine love story, bringing people together over coffee, wherever they are.

The idea: Imagine Nescafe creates the Gold Blend SIM. More than that, it’s a SIM you can put in anything, and once installed, can easily connect to any other SIM-enabled machine. For example, pop it n a kettle and it can talk to another kettle anywhere in the world. Ok so kettles aren’t sexy but…

Here’s the love story: Our new Sharon is missing her lover, the new Tony, who’s in New York City on business. It’s the middle of the night and she can’t sleep, so she flicks on her kettle to make a cup of Gold Blend. Her kettle than pings to his in his hotel room, instructing it to start boiling, which gets his attention. He knows what it means, makes a coffee and Skypes her. They have a steamy chat over the phone and over our Gold Blend.

Tap into the wisdom of the masses: Ross Sleight, chief strategy officer, Somo

Gold Blend is essentially a soap opera in the format of sequential ads that happened over the course of many years. My thought is very simple: Blow that soap opera out using the techniques we have to engage people through digital platforms, and take advantage of the second screens (e.g. tablets, mobiles) of TV viewers.

The first step is to create profiles for Tony and Sharon on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify. We’d also introduce a number of other third parties who help their narrative along.

Next we’d create plots – Tony and Sharon have a dinner date, or are going to a club to listen to music. But rather than create linear activity, where the writers decide what’s going to happen, we invite the public to vote on how their story should go. Each episode becomes an event that happens over the course of three to seven hours.

Here’s the idea: The couple has a dinner date. Which dress should Sharon wear? That afternoon she asks her friends on Facebook who vote, and she abides by the outcome. Later on, when the spot airs, we see Sharon entering the restaurant in that dress. As they sit, Tony sees his ex-girlfriend across the room. Should he acknowledge her, or will that offend Sharon?

The audience is invited to tweet how he should respond, and during the next commercial break we see Tony acting on the advice he received from his Twitter followers. Later on they go to his flat for a drink – which Spotify playlist should he select? Again, the audience votes using their devices.

Of course, this execution requires that the TV adverts be filmed in real time, just like television of old, but that will enhance the authenticity of the campaign, which is now an essential ingredient.

Invite participation and use social media to build anticipation: Malcolm Poynton, global chief creative officer, Cheil Worldwide

The original ad was a long-running one with lots and lots of iteration. It was intended to run for a short time but it ended up running for quite a number of years.

In this day and age, the story would be told very differently. To start, I don’t know that anyone goes next door to a neighbour’s these days; we order and have it delivered. That means the whole construct of the story must be fundamentally different, but it also opens up all sorts of opportunities for people to participate for how the story pans out.

We’re in a day and age where it is very easy for viewers to participate in building a storyline, and I think it’s a shame we don’t have any campaigns like this today, especially since this format really lends itself to the digital age and consumer engagement.

When the Gold Blend campaign was running, there used to be newspaper ads that advertised when the next instalment would be on TV. The campaign did a great job in building anticipation. I think we could do that really well with social media. We’d invite people to participate in developing the story of Tony and Sharon, and use social media to build excitement for each episode.

A guide to dating in 2016: Ben Plomion, SVP marketing, GumGum

Once again I’d piggyback off of an idea presented in these pages, this time Ross Sleight’s. If we know that Sharon and Tony are planning a date for the coming weekend, we can get the public involved in suggesting dresses for Sharon to wear.

For instance, we can target images of women celebrities and overlay ads that say, “What do you think of this for Sharon?” A link takes the user to Sharon’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, where people can talk about which dress she should wear, and why.

The campaign would certainly prompt a lot of conversation. Some people may think a plunging neckline is inappropriate for a lunch date, but perfectly acceptable for a club.

We could do the same thing with makeup, inviting men to jump in with their thoughts, which would give rise to a “beautiful just the way you are” movement. We could also invite women to share their worst dating memories, so men will know how to avoid stupid mistakes.

As for spinoff products, we can collect all of the feedback to create a Gold Blend etiquette book for dating in 2016.

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