Every Ad Campaign Needs a Hook


In the 1960’s musical Gypsy, a bawdy stage tune proclaims You Gotta Have A Gimmick. Although this upbeat number was basically issuing advice to would-be burlesque dancers, the sentiment should not be lost on us marketing folks. After all, it seems like advertising’s most memorable campaigns all have some sort of gimmick or ongoing hook. Even a brief audit of YouTube seems to corroborate that marketing campaigns with hooks are more popular, more memorable and more viral. So let’s take a moment examine some of advertising favorite hooks.

1. The Talking Whatever

This well-worn advertising approach puts words in the mouths of a variety of non-verbal beings: babies, monkeys, bovines and chihuahuas. The latest to ride this wave of popularity is the long-running E*Trade campaign. Their recent Tailor commercial has racked up 1,796,383 views on YouTube.

2. The Repeated Catchphrase

The repeated catchphrase is something we most often associate with cartoons and sitcoms. Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” Jimmie Walkers’s “Dyn-o-mite!” Jan Brady’s “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” It is also something we have grown accustomed to with the cinema. Sean Connery’s “Shaken not stirred.” Arnold Schwarzenegear’s “I’ll be back.” Mae West’s “Come up and see me some time.” But the tried-and-true catchphrase has probably been best exploited by advertisers. They have used it to make their brand part of the common vernacular. Budweisers’s Whassup?” Alka Seltzer’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” Sure, people are attracted to novelty but they are comforted by the familiar. The catchphrase allows us to be part of a shared community. We are all in on the joke. This classic Bud commercial takes us back, doesn’t it? Tipping the scales at 3,803,950 views.

3. The Painful Moment

This hook capitalizes on the human proclivity for laughter at someone else’s expense. These sort of campaigns feature somebody getting kneed in the groin; slipping on a banana peel, bowling lane or icy pavement; or simply getting hoisted on their own petard. The Doritos Bird of Prey commercial reminds us of just how much fun it is to laugh in the face of other people’s adversity. 195,046 views so far.

4. The Running Gag

Why walk away from a good idea when you can run that sucker into the ground? Bud Light kept their “I love you, man” gag going for more than a year. Pace Picante Sauce campaign kept their “New York City!!!?” refrain churning out ads for over a decade. In fact, the Pace marketing team liked this diner commercial  so much they apparently made it twice.
(Notice that in the first commercial, the crowd shouts “New Jersey!!!?” There’s some advertising trivia for you.)

5. The Sexual Innuendo

Sex sells. That’s why it is consistently an element in YouTube’s more viral commercials. From cologne to M&Ms you’ll find sexual allusions in many of the industry’s most memorable commercials. This M&M spot has received 31,728 hits.

6. The Fear Factor

Again, playing on people’s most primal emotions has been an effective hook in both political ads and in public service. The fear hook has been frequently employed in our nation’s the war on drugs. The Meth-Not Even Once campaign relies on fear to drive home their message.

Wow! I definitely could use a drink after watching those.

We are a Dallas Advertising Agency specializing in integrated marketing.