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Night of the living dead (and that’s just the ad break)


Night of the living dead (and that’s just the ad break)


Way back when I was spelling out ‘Marketing 101′ with wood blocks, Wilson Everard debuted the iconic Haymes Paint ad.

It broke every rule in the creative handbook – showed the client in his factory talking about his product, the stuff they put in it, his dad’s passion and included no beauty shots of the product – not even a colour card.

And it ran for 15 years largely unchanged – even today after it has been laid up for over ten years, people in research groups can remember David Haymes’ monologue almost word perfectly.

It put Haymes on the map where it remains to this day: a premium product.

Of course many marketers said ‘What if he gets hit by a tram?’

Fortunately, David not only makes wonderful, high-quality paint but is nimble on his pins and has managed to avoid Melbourne’s lethal public transport system.

But let me tell you a story about a bloke called Orville Redenbacher who did his own ads in the US.

Orville started his career selling fertiliser, but with a business partner developed a business selling popping corn.

A smart ad agency decided he’d make authentic, if rather bizarre, talent and the bow-tied Orville became an American icon.

Unlike David Haymes, Orville sold out ultimately to agribusiness giant ConAgra who continued to use him to promote the brand.

Instead of being hit by a tram, Orville suffered a heart attack and drowned in his jacuzzi at the age of 91.

The death of a salesman, perhaps, but there was nobody to take his place flogging the corn. Until sixteen years later, when ConAgra employed the hugely famous and multi-awarded agency Crispin Porter + Bugusky to wave the ‘pixie dust’ that created Burger King’s ‘Subservient Chicken’ and Apple’s ‘I’m a PC’ ads over the popcorn giant to revive flagging sales.

The ad boys wanted to recreate Orville’s sweet, down-home-old-guy-with-the-old-fashioned-values-who’d-never-lie-to-you image.

And with modern digital technology they were going to re-animate Orville and put the old boy back to work doing what he did best -selling delicious pop corn.

It was the costliest commercial ConAgra had ever done and the result would have had Mary Shelley, Boris Karloff and James Whale spinning in their caskets.

Orville had returned with a corpselike pallor and lips that do not quite sync with his other-worldly voice.

A ghastly parody of a once-loved character who jerks around like a Frankenstein monster on peptides urging us to eat the human food he is handling with undead claws.

Even the extras seem horrified by his appearance in their kitchen.

This fabulously expensive exercise was rushed to the ad morgue with a stake through its electrically-pulsing heart in less time than it takes to microwave a bag of ‘buttery, fluffy, great tasting Orville Redenbacher pop corn.’

And here for those with a morbid sense of humor, is the ad that has been forever dubbed by unkind marketers as the Deadenbacher:



As for David Haymes, we are assured by his family that while he still enjoys ‘the odd glass of ceiling white,’ he definitely does not own a jacuzzi!

And he quit making his own ads years ago.


Nick Hickford

Nick Hickford, Wilson Everard CEO, has spent the last 10 years running agencies after 15 years client side in FMCG marketing roles across Sanitarium, National Foods, Berri and Energizer. In 2011 Nick joined Wilson Everard from The Bridge, one of Melbourne’s original strategic planning agencies, bringing his strategic experience to partner to the creative strengths of Wilson and Everard. Nick can be contacted via [email protected] or +61 3 98675100.

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