This week on Mad Men, Megan discovers her talent and pursues her passion; Peggy stands up to Don (again); music plays its way into the creative department, and Cool Whip tops it all off….especially for me. In 1966 when I moved from Media to the Account Department at Benton & Bowles, my very first assignment was (you guessed it) Cool Whip. There is definitely Mad Men karma at work here. This episode took me on a wonderful unexpected nostalgic trip. I’ll share my Cool Whip experiences first and then discuss Megan, Don and music.
A Real Cool Whip Story
In 1966 the Birds Eye Division of General Foods was a big B&B client and I was assigned to work on the introduction of two new products….Cool Whip and Orange Plus. Tom Griffin was my account supervisor and a great mentor. (Tom later went on to found the very successful ad agency Griffin & Bacal.) Orange Plus was a new kind of soft frozen orange juice concentrate that offered convenience, great fresh taste and real pulp. Innovative for that time, Orange Plus was also introduced and enjoyed some success, but nothing compared to the sales success of Cool Whip.
We introduced Cool Whip in 1967 and most of 1966 was spent developing and testing creative concepts. Cool Whip was an impressive, first of its kind product. It came frozen and ready to use in its own bowl, had a great fresh taste and looked like real whipped cream. Of course there wasn’t anything real about it so the “non-dairy whipped topping” designation was plastered on the front label. This was an important legal consideration in our creative development. In the commercials, we did not have to list the ingredients or call out the product as a non-dairy topping in the voice over copy provided non-dairy was prominently visualized on the label throughout the commercial. The what’s in Cool Whip saga continues today and was called out in a 2007 Wired Magazine article.
The Cool Whip Creative Challenge
Cool Whip did exceptionally well in taste tests and we felt confident that we could deliver on taste expectations. The creative challenge was to sell the taste and texture benefits of fresh, real whipped cream for a product that was non-dairy and frozen. We had to dispel doubts and get people to taste it. It also important to remember that the initial commercials were in black and white so appetite appeal was a bit limited. We developed a wide range of ideas and had long debates with legal about what we could say and show. We actually did spend time in the test kitchens with food scientists to help craft and clarify product language and claims. Those scenes brought back some great memories.
The commercial idea that Don and Megan present to the client addressed the creative challenge through a slice of life execution and communicating that everything taste better with Cool Whip. A good appraoch and we also developed a number of concepts along those same lines.
The commercial that tested best and initially made it to market took a different approach. It was called “Yum Yum Cool Whip.” The commercial relied on tried and true techniques : a catchy jingle,(Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum Cool Whip), appetizing product shots, and user taste satisfaction. ” The First Modern Topping With That Good Old Fashioned Taste.” Some of the more cynical creative folks called it “Yawn Yawn Cool Whip” since they thought it was a bit boring and silly. Here’s the 60-second commercial. See what you think.
It worked. The commercial was supported by a powerful program of promotion and sampling including a promotional tie-in with the Gomer Pyle TV show. The early days of product placement. Cool Whip took off and within two years it was one of Birds Eye’s biggest selling brands. Its success continues today and Cool Whip is even receiving some notarity on Family Guy and in social media. Being part of the team that helped introduce this iconic brand. Very special. Seeing it brought back to life on Mad Men. Priceless.