It seems as if Madison Avenue is on some kind of a “Hi”.
At least half a dozen advertising campaigns are using the greeting “Hello” as a way to attract consumer attention.
Some of the salutations are logical, like the “Hello” offered in a commercial for the iPhone from Apple. Some are meant to be upbeat, like “Hello tomorrow” and “Hello future” in ads for, respectively, Avon Products and the Lincoln Financial Group. Some “Hellos” are more intriguing, like the enticing “Hello delicious” in print ads for Level vodka.
The fact that several campaigns for disparate brands are based on the same word reinforces the notion that similarity is often the sincerest form of advertising.
Focusing a campaign on “Hello” represents “a friendly, more engaging way to connect with consumers, but it’s pretty overused,” said Allen P. Adamson, managing director at Landor Associates in New York, a brand and corporate identity consulting company owned by the WPP Group.
“The first few might have been effective as a ‘pay attention to me’ thing,” he added, because “we’re hard-wired to look up when someone says ‘hello.’”
This is not the first time that “Hello” and its variants have been used as marketing devices. The comedian Jack Benny, for instance, opened his radio show by proclaiming “Jell-O again,” accenting his sponsor’s brand name the way “Hello” would be.
Colgate-Palmolive once sold a shampoo named Halo, which was the subject of a popular jingle that began “Halo everybody, Halo.”
And in 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh with print ads that showed the computer with just one word—“Hello”—displayed on its screen.
“Advertising being an annoying, interruptive medium, ‘Hello’ is kind of a nice salutation, a friendly way of introducing yourself,” said Lee Clow, chairman and chief creative officer at the TBWA Worldwide unit of the Omnicom Group who has long worked for Apple.
That’s particularly true for technology products, he added, which can use the greeting “to let people feel comfortable, to humanize something that they might look at and say, ‘I don’t know if I can use it.’”
The “Hello” in the iPhone commercial, which started running in February, was intended to accomplish the same task, Clow said, as well as echo the “Hello” from the Macintosh campaign 23 years earlier.
“We felt like it was a little part of our Apple vocabulary,” he added, “so it seemed like a natural to use it to introduce the iPhone.”
The iPhone commercial features excerpts of scenes from movies and television shows in which stars, both human (Marlon Brando, Jerry Lewis) and animated (Betty Rubble, Mr. Incredible), are answering the telephone. The spot ends with an appearance by the iPhone, scheduled to make its debut next month.
Just as a “Hello” can help make a technology pitch seem less intimidating, it can make ads for financial products less daunting, executives at the Lincoln Financial Group say.
“We don’t want people approaching their retirement with fear or apprehension,” said David Wozniak, assistant vice-president for corporate branding and advertising at the Lincoln National Corp. in Philadelphia, which is using “Hello future” in ads as wellas on the cover of its annual report.
The idea to say “Hello future” is also tailored to the target audience for the campaign, he added, which is the baby boom generation.
“Looking at retirement and what it means to the boomers,” Wozniak said, “we realized an opportunity we had to zone in on optimism for the future, enabling people to achieve their dreams and beyond.”
The Lincoln campaign, by Martin/Williams in Minneapolis, an agency also owned by Omnicom, appears to have started the most recent “Hello” trend; the ads began appearing in spring 2005. The campaign was followed a year later by the “Hello delicious” campaign for Level vodka, sold by the V&S Group.
“We were cognizant of ‘Hello’ being used before in advertising, commercials, songs,” said Rob Smiley, creative director on Level at TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York, part of TBWA Worldwide, “but here it’s not ‘Hello’ in isolation."
“The campaign is very much an introduction or reintroduction of the Level brand to the consumer,” he added, “and just as ‘Hello’ is a way to greet someone you don’t know, this is a way to greet the vodka you don’t know.”
As repetitious as all the “Hellos” might be, think of what was avoided as a result of Americans shunning the greeting preferred by the inventor of the telephone.
According to legend, Alexander Graham Bell advocated answering calls with a hearty “Ahoy”.