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  • Writer's pictureAlan Shoebridge

Life lessons: What a classic 1970s TV commercial selling cereal can teach all of us about patience

When you create something good, stick with it. This is true for many things in life. For marketers, it’s advice we should heed when it comes to our marketing campaigns, brand messaging efforts and advertising creative.

Case in point: 'Mikey likes it'

If you’re more than 40 years old, I can almost guarantee that you remember that tagline. Why? Because it ran as a TV ad for nearly 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s. Here is a refresher if you need it.

What’s most impressive to me about this ad is not so much the creative itself. It is very good, “Mikey” is cute and the tagline is memorable. What’s most impressive is that Quaker Oats - the company that made Life cereal - stuck with this ad over two separate decades. It ran on TV from 1972 into the mid 1980s and is one of longest running ads in TV history. I don't know how many total boxes of cereal it moved for the company, but I do know that I asked my parents to buy it for me more than a few times.

How easy would it have been for the company to feel bored with this ad and do something

else in 1975 after a solid three-year run? You know there must have been annual meetings where someone always felt that the ad was tired and needed a refresh.

I think many of us fall into the same trap. We watch our ads over and over, and after six months we grow tired of them. However, we forget to consider the fact that most members of the public probably haven’t even seen our ads yet. Even if they have seen them, has the message truly sunk in yet? The rule of seven says that a prospective buyer needs to hear or see your marketing message at least seven times before they will consider taking action.

The moral of this blog post is never change your creative simply because you are tired of it. Only change it if it’s not working and you feel confident that a new message would outperform what you have active in the market. Now, not every campaign will give you a “Mikey likes it” moment, but walking away from effective creative too early is almost always a mistake.


More about Mikey

John Gilchrist is best known for his role as Mikey in the Life cereal commercials in the 1970s. He would play this role alongside his two real-life brothers. The commercial was filmed in 1971 and he was just 3 years old at the time. By the year 1972 it was being aired nationally and it ran on the air until 1986. The advertisement won a Clio Award in 1974 and in 1999 was ranked number 10 on TV Guide’s list of the top 50 commercials.

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