I remember watching the 1994 NHL All-Star Game as a kid and seeing the most peculiar commercial. There were military helicopters zooming through the air, scientists in white lab coats running around, searchlights panning the sky, and a wall of press straining to get a sound bite as flashbulbs exploded all around them.
The dramatic voiceover spoke: “People don't really understand the idea that shaped it. It's capable of extrasensory communication. It's constructed with platinum, rhodium, and newly formed compounds. No one has ever seen anything quite like it.”
The door of a massive airplane hangar began to slowly slide open and the sliver of blinding light widened to brighten the face of a small doe-eyed boy.
Something momentous was about to happen!
Cut to black, mysterious product name shown.
“Coming Super Bowl Sunday”
WOW! What is it???
Keep in mind, this was just before the Internet so Google was not there to satiate the inordinately peaked curiosity of a 12-year-old me.
Then came Super Bowl Sunday! I was about to find out! It was …
A Dodge Neon.
That was the “Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine” moment of my childhood.
Don’t get me wrong, the Neon was a perfectly adequate automobile. But I think we can all agree that there would not have been waiting lists a mile long for the car were it not for the mind-boggling levels of hype that campaign achieved.
Which is why when I recently came across Time Magazine’s list of the 50 worst inventions of all time, I couldn’t help but think that with this kind of marketing, some (some!) of these items may have fared better.
So maybe the baby cage, Olestra, and Crocs (I don’t care how comfy they are) were doomed from the start. But Nintendo Virtual Boy and Segways may have stood a chance if they were just marketed better with a prolonged hype campaign.
~ Darius Schwarz, AGO Public Affairs Intern