Tag Archives: JWT

Uncola: Seven-Up, Counterculture and the Making of an American Brand

Post contributed by Claire Payton, John W.  Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History intern and Ph.D. candidate, Duke University Department of History

It was 1967, and people weren’t drinking Seven-Up. Well, a few were: consumers mostly thought of the bubbly beverage as a mixer or a tonic to calm an upset stomach. But executives at the St. Louis-based Seven-Up Company were anxious to tap into a wider market. The company wanted to rebrand its product as a common soft-drink like the more well-known cola beverages, Pepsi or Coca-Cola. It enlisted a marketing team from the Chicago office of the J. Walter Thompson ad agency to help them. Out of this collaboration came one of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 20th century.

The late 1960s were a difficult time in America. The Vietnam War and the fight for civil rights divided the country.  Disillusioned young people were building a robust oppositional counter-culture that rejected war, racial segregation, and violence. The summer of 1967 became known as the “Summer of Love,” a period when hippies gathered in San Francisco and cities around the country in the hopes of igniting “a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.”

Seizing on this oppositional energy, the JWT team designed a campaign that framed 7-Up as the ultimate oppositional drink: the “Uncola.” Rather than trying to play up the similarities the soda shared with its competitors, the new ads focused on its differences. In the company newsletter, the team explained “Seven-Up advertising tells people that, of the three top-selling soft drink brands, 7-Up, the Uncola, is the only one with distinctly different qualities.”

An early Uncola ad: "A hotdog and . . . The Uncola?"The “Uncola” struck a chord with the younger generation as the first ads appeared in 1968. They focused on puns based around “un” part of the new slogan. By portraying Coke and Pepsi as “the Establishment,” JWT effectively situated 7-Up as an alternative brand for alternative people.

The following year JWT created a contest inviting artists to submit wildly imaginative designs for 7-Up ads. The submissions were presented to the client, who chose the final images. The winner received a $2000 reward and the opportunity to work with JWT to make final versions. From this contest, JWT and the Seven-Up company built a campaign of colorful road-side billboards with psychedelic graphics. Art by young graphic designers including Pat Dypold, Ed Georges, and Milton Glaser dotted highways across the country in 1969.

A 1973 article from Southern Advertising described the success of the billboard campaign: “To zero in on the college and younger age groups, [Seven-Up executive] Roesch has developed a different approach to the use of the outdoor medium. The agency’s media department uses outdoor as a means of zeroing in on a specific target . . . instead of as a mass media that doesn’t discriminate.  The boards are located accordingly, and the art used is slated to the specific likes of the age groups. The result has been demand for Seven-Up posters to be used as room decorations, party decorations, all without any promotion by the company.”

An example of a Seven-Up Uncola billboard

The campaign complemented its print ads and billboards with television spots. The most memorable ads from this campaign featured Trinidadian dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder explaining the difference between ugly, dry, kola nuts and the tangy, juicy lemon and limes that flavor 7-Up. The ad broke racial barriers within the Seven-Up Company, which until then had never used black actors in its television ads.

The Uncola campaign continued into the 1970s. As times changed, the campaign tried to stay in dialog with oppositional culture by incorporating new visual mediums such as grafitti. JWT argued that “In 1968, the rebellious approach of youth was a workable parallel for the rebellious approach of Seven-Up. Today, in the Seventies, the attack remains viable.” However, 7-Up’s hard-won market share declined over the course of the decade, losing ground to the growing popularity of another lemon-lime soda, Sprite.

Brief article about Seven-Up Uncola grafitti posters

Perhaps the soda became a victim of its own success. The Uncola campaign had so effectively linked to the youth of the 1960s that by the 1990s, it was considered ”what old people drink,” in the words of one financial analyst, “and that’s not what you want in a soft drink.” In 1998, the company finally dropped the Uncola slogan and reinvented its formula. Since then the company has since tried several different campaigns to redefine its identity without success. Regardless, the Uncola campaign will remain a mainstay of the consumer culture of 20th century America and a sign of the times in which it was created.


Have You Driven a Ford Advertisement Lately?

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.

One of the heaviest circulating collections in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History is the Domestic Advertisements collection in the J. Walter Thompson Co. (JWT) advertising agency archives.  The collection documents the print advertisements designed for magazines and newspapers for the agency’s clients in the United States.  One of the most popular clients represented in the collection is the Ford Motor Company.

"There's a Ford in Your Future" ad

JWT and the Ford Motor Company have a long standing agency/client relationship, one still active today.  The agency officially added Ford to its roster of clients in 1943 and launched the now iconic “There’s a Ford in Your Future,” campaign the following year.  In the ensuing decades, JWT helped Ford launch many new automobile models including the Thunderbird, Mustang, Pinto, Taurus, Explorer, Ranger, and Escort.  The agency crafted several well-known Ford campaigns including the first advertising “roadblock” announcing the launch of the Mustang in 1964; “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?”; the Falcon campaign incorporating Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters; and “No Boundaries.”

Ford Falcon '62 ad with Peanuts Characters, 1962

Thanks to the work of the Duke University Libraries’ Technical Services, Conservation Department, Digital Production Center, and Enterprise Services, nearly 12,000 Ford Motor Co. advertisements documenting JWT’s seven decades of creative work for Ford Motor Company are now available to students, scholars, and gearheads in our new digital collection.

Ford Mustang ad, 1964

In addition to advertisements for cars, trucks, vans and SUVs, the collection also includes ads for the company’s farm implement division, Ford Farm, Ford Motorsports, taxi cabs, school buses, and police vehicles.  Advertisements for the Ford line of genuine replacement parts, Motorcraft, Ford automotive services, promotional literature, outdoor advertising, and insertion schedules are also among the materials represented in the collection.  All ads are keyword searchable and browsable by model, vehicle category, and multiple subjects and ad formats.

JWT Newsletters Are Now Available Online!

We are pleased to announce one of Rubenstein’s newest digital collections: over 1,600 newsletters of the J. Walter Thompson Co. advertising agency from 1916 to 1986. These internally distributed newsletters touch on myriad topics of interest to the company, such as account and client news; general and client-specific marketing surveys; developments in print, radio, and television advertising and marketing research; as well as personnel news such as new hires, transfers, promotions, and brief biographical sketches.

The agency’s newsletters are among the most requested and circulated collections in the J. Walter Thompson Co. Archives. Thanks to the work of the Duke University Libraries’ Digital Projects and Production Services Department and Conservation Department, this tremendously rich resource is now available online. You can browse by title, year, and date, and can also search by keyword. Some select issues include:

Issue No. 1, June 6, 1916
Issue No. 1, June 6, 1916

The first J. Walter Thompson Co. newsletter contains client and product news. It also includes an article, “Selling to the Multitude,” which discusses the professionalization of the advertising industry, its superiority over traditional modes of salesmanship, and the hope that one day advertising will be a budget line in all industries, right alongside “material, labor, overhead, and personal selling.”

“JWT Across the Seas,”  January 15, 1929
“JWT Across the Seas,” January 15, 1929

This particular newsletter is focused on news briefs from various overseas offices including London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Antwerp, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid.

“Pepsi Challenges and Wins,” Fall 1982.
“Pepsi Challenges and Wins,” Fall 1982.

The fall 1982 newsletter highlights the success of the “Challenge” campaign in foreign markets.  JWT launched the international campaign in Canada in 1976; it is considered the first notable worldwide application of an aggressive comparative campaign.

Check out the rest of the collection online and be sure to tune in to the Digital Collections blog for more information about this new collection.

Post contributed by Joshua Larkin Rowley, Hartman Center Reference Archivist.