From “Saved by the Bell” to “Grease” and “West Side Story,” 2020 is turning out to be the year of the reboot. Maybe we’re all pining for simpler times. Maybe we just really need a break from our current state of the world. Whatever the cause, there is something decidedly nostalgic in the air this year. Old content is being made new again, and it’s not just on TV and in movies. Classic advertising campaigns are getting a fresh new face as well.
We rounded up a few of our favorites from the advertising world to inspire you. Maybe it’s time to start digging through your own archives to find inspiration for your 2020 campaigns.
Budweiser – Wassup
Originally kicked off during Monday Night Football in 1999, Budweiser’s Wassup campaign launched the catchphrase that would dominate the early 2000s. The campaign crossed the barrier from advertising to pop culture almost immediately and become one of the first ads to ever go viral—before that term had even been coined. The phrase popped up in “Friends,” the Scary Movie series, “The Office” and countless other pop-culture heavyweights in the years to come, not to mention around everyone’s dinner table. The beauty of it was in the simplicity of the set up and its ability cut across all cultural lines.
The Original Wassup (1999)
Budweiser has so far resurrected the campaign twice in 2020—and we’re only in June. The first came back in January during Super Bowl LIV in Canada. The original conceit of the spot was translated for our increasingly automated and digital lives.
The Super Bowl LIV Wassup (January 2020)
The third version of the ad was updated for our quarantine moment in March and encouraged people to reach out and connect while socially distanced.
The Quarantine Wassup (March 2020)
Each of the new ads spins the original idea behind the campaign in a new direction, making it feel fresh but still nostalgic.
Geico – Sequels
Geico’s take on the campaign reboot looked slightly different from Budweiser’s. Instead of reimagining the same setting in a modern world, they created a series of sequels for three of Geico’s lesser-known characters from past commercials: Pinocchio, raccoons and wood chucks. U.S. residents were able to vote for their favorite character sequel online.
The campaign’s comedic take on lesser known characters in Geico’s ad catalog hit the right tone, and the choice to engage the audience with a quiz made the set of six ads even more appealing. (The raccoons won, in case you were wondering.)
Old Spice – Smell Like Your Own Man
Old Spice’s 2010 “Smell Like a Man” campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa was a viral success by any measure. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, the brand gave the iconic character a son and updated the tagline to feel more in line with our current cultural moment.
Smell Like a Man (2010)
The resulting spot feels true to the original while also going after a younger target market. Afterall, what teenager can’t relate to feeling embarrassed around his dad every now and then?
Gatorade – Be Like Mike
Sometimes you don’t need to create an entirely new ad around an old campaign idea. If it’s the right time, you can just recut the original and release it to meet a new moment. That’s exactly what Gatorade did as “The Last Dance,” an extended documentary series exploring Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls, was released on ESPN to critical and popular acclaim in April.
Be Like Mike (2020)
Gatorade incorporated video footage from its current line-up of athletes, including Jayson Tatum, into its classic 1992 “Be Like Mike” commercial. The change was so simple, you could almost miss it. But it allowed the brand to capitalize on the most iconic athlete it had sponsored at a moment when his name was everywhere.
Arby’s – Last Year’s Pecan Chicken Salad Commercial
Mid-pandemic Arby’s was in an advertising conundrum. They couldn’t film a new spot to promote the rerelease of their Pecan Chicken Sandwich. But with summer approaching, they needed to get the word out. So they turned to an old ad and leaned into the fact that they were repurposing it—hard. Instead of ignoring the second, discontinued sandwich in the background or trying to edit it out, they covered it up it in the most obvious way possible (the blur tool!) and referenced it in the voiceover.
Arby’s: Pecan Chicken Salad – Last Year’s Commercial
The result was true to Arby’s brand, got a lot of attention and was hilariously meta. Can you name the blurred-out, discontinued sandwich hanging out in the background?
Particularly at this time, as many brands are considering tightening budgets and trimming costs, a campaign reboot can be the perfect fit. What are your brand’s most successful campaigns and how could you remake them in 2020?