"BRAMMY" Award
(Branding Award for sound in the TV Advertising Industry)

LISTEN to the TV Soundtrack

Let's take a quick run back to 1962. "Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp was #1 on the music charts. But it was the #5 tune, "The Twist" by Chubby Checker, which revolutionized dancing forever. It was the first time that people in the U.S. danced apart from each other

Zooming down over the heartland of America, we hear chiropractors chortling with glee over the new patients brought in by the back-popping gyrations that teens did easily, but sent adults in paroxysms of agony over the swivel-hipped new dance sensation. Chubby Checker (transformed from Ernest Evans by a spoof on Fats Domino's name) would launch a 40-year career from that one song.

Zipping ahead in time to 1990, we see Nabisco's Oreo Cookies hire Chubby as the spokesman for their brand. Now, let's think about that: a slightly overweight guy whose NAME is Chubby - and you want him to do TV spots for your cholesterol-drenched brand? This sounds suspiciously like a focus group decision. Aha! I thought so! Well, it's your money, not mine.

As we hover invisibly over a New York recording studio, (NEW YORK SOUND with DAVID MUSIAL as the ENGINEER) there is Chubby Checker singing a parody of his own hit, called "The Oreo Twist." They based it on the fact that kids either *crunch* the cookie in one bite, dunk it in milk or they .. TWIST it apart and lick the filling first. Say, pretty clever. No matter, it'll never fly. The TV spot goes back in time to drop in on a 10 year-old chubby little boy Chubby, who is busy at the kitchen table twisting the top off an Oreo and licking the filling while singing to himself, "Come on, baby, do the twist," and stopping himself in mid-verse to say, "Hey! This could be BIG!"

With the help of some brilliant tour marketing (but not by Nabisco - showbiz pros did it) to supermarket managers, the ultimate buyers of cases of Oreos, Chubby went on the road for Nabisco nonstop for a year. He played to packed houses of 2,000 "trade" customers at nostalgic private parties, where 50 year-old Kroger and Safeway managers and their wives dolled up in Fonzie jackets, rolled-up jeans and poodle skirts and twisted the night away. They were expected to order more Oreo cases on Monday morning. Surprise! They did! To the tune of a 13% increase in Oreo sales on top of their normal $350 million a year. Good grief! That's a $45 million increase in sales, the biggest in Nabisco brand history.

It received a "Brammy" for best brand promotion of the year and Promo Magazine called "The Oreo Twist" the fourth biggest promotion of the last 15 years. Do you see where this is going yet?

At the end of the year, Chubby asked to renew the deal for another year, having gotten a nice payday himself for the effort. After all, he had only covered 10% of the country. There's no doubt that music marketing works, whether using The Beatles' "Revolution" for Nike or Donna Summer's "She Works Hard For The Money" for a tax service. But then came the committees. The ad agency committees, that is. They convinced Nabisco that they needed a completely new campaign ("Unlock The Magic") for the next year, since ad agencies have to come up with something new every year or they wouldn't be needed. The new gimmick would be with a world-famous magician, Harry Blackstone, Jr. - well, almost world-famous. That, of course, would entail new - and expensive - TV spots, in-store posters, package design and another tour, but with the magician to mimic the Chubby Checker tour, except they wouldn't pay the magician as much. It died. It flopped. It was agonizing. All of the supermarket managers asked, "Where's Chubby?" Oreo sales dropped faster than a new "Star Trek" character in an off-colored tunic.

The reason? The ad agency said Chubby was too old. Well, maybe for the kids who ate the cookies, but not for the supermarket buyers who put their leather jackets back in mothballs. Here's a lesson for the ad agency brain trusts: nostalgia sells. $45 million worth. Especially music nostalgia; it's the soundtrack of our youth.



Chubby Checker, Friends Twisted the Night Away
Los Angeles Times
December 11, 1990|C. A. WEDLAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
◦ Hollywood's chichi China Club braced itself for a roisterous evening as Chubby Checker and his band, the Wildcats, packed the club with a few hundred gyrating folks and brought back 30 years of rock 'n' roll memories. Checker teamed up Sunday with Nabisco's Oreo cookie division to host a twist contest with 39 regional contestants flown in from around the country.