Have you noticed all the TV ads that play off the theme of time travel these days? The good ol' days weren't really all that great--there was the cold war, Vietnam and disco, after all--but in the world of advertising, there's gold in the past. In March, Burger King celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Whopper hamburger with an advertising ode to the ages, featuring basketball behemoth Shaquille O'Neal. In the commercial, Shaq enters a Burger King in the '50s, strolls through the restaurant during the '60s, then the '70s, and leaves, meal in hand, in today's world. (In real life, we hope, it doesn't take 50 years to be served a burger.) The style of Shaq's clothing and the scenery around him change to reflect each decade. Even Shaq's swagger progresses from a James Dean strut to a hip-hop bounce.
The Shaq spot is part of a boom in time-travel ads: luxury-car maker Mercedes-Benz has an ad with a cruising SL500, showing the evolution of the SL class through the decades; Pepsi also unveiled a similar Britney Spears ad during the Super Bowl. Ad experts say consumers like the idea of products that weather the times--it's the exception to the advertising rule that associates old with bad. In the post-9/11 era, that sentiment is growing stronger. "You're buying the same thing that someone bought in the '50s and '60s," says Breck Eisner, who directed the Burger King spot. "There's a certain comfort zone here."
Such ads have the ability to reach out to several generations. How do you appeal to kids who love teen pop as well as to adults who can't stand it? You show Britney in the '60s and the '00s and give the generations something to bond over. Says Jeff Mordos, who oversees the Pepsi account at BBDO New York: "The relationship [between] parents and kids today is much closer to friend-to-friend than in the past." And who wouldn't want a friend like Britney? --By Roy B. White