- Kimmelot, the creative lab of late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, partnered with Ryan Reynolds' Maximum Effort agency to produce a series of ads inspired by 1980s nostalgia, according to a news release. Kraft Heinz, Jack in the Box and Aviation American Gin, which Reynolds has partial ownership of, participated in the effort airing around ABC's "Live in Front of a Studio Audience" primetime special on Dec. 7.
- The Emmy-winning program this year paid homage to two iconic sitcoms of the decade, "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Facts of Life," and was complemented by era-appropriate TV spots. Shot in a fuzzy retro style, the commercials nod to familiar '80s campaigns like the "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" PSA and Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America."
- The integrations will continue to run around "Live in Front of a Studio Audience: 'The Facts of Life' and 'Diff'rent Strokes'" as the show makes the jump to streaming on Hulu today (Dec. 8). Given the bevy of cultural references, the ads might resonate more with an audience tuning in to relive their favorite TV shows from a specific period.
Nostalgia for the '80s continues to be a powerful tool in marketing, as it keys into a period when many millennials and Gen Xers, who now have greater spending power, came of age. The decade has endured as a cultural fascination point in the U.S. for years, helping propel the popularity of programs like "Stranger Things" and "Live in Front of a Studio Audience," a series conceptualized by Kimmel that debuted in 2019. The show recreates retro sitcom episodes live with new casts, with the latest broadcast including appearances from Kevin Hart, Jennifer Aniston and other stars.
The ads this year feature appearances from Alfonso Ribeiro, Jennifer Beals, Bob Vila and David Leisure, as well as voiceover work from Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter and Robyn Lively, who may sound familiar to people who consumed a lot of media during the decade.
For brands, looking back in this fashion offers the opportunity to recapture the magic of a cultural moment where splashy TV campaigns dominated media strategy and reached a massive national audience that has since dwindled amid the rise of cord-cutting. Matching the execution of the creative with the era of the sitcoms being restaged could make them read as less intrusive as an aversion to traditional ads grows.
Kraft Heinz around the special pushed spots for Kool-Aid, Heinz, Kraft Singles and Oscar Mayer. Some of those brands — lunch box and cookout staples from years ago — have struggled to preserve relevance as consumer tastes shift toward more natural and organic offerings. Leaning into the products' advertising heyday might help Kraft Heinz place them closer to the center of cultural conversations, an increasingly important mandate for the packaged foods category. The ad for Kool-Aid, titled "This Old Hole," depicts "This Old House" house host Bob Vila assessing a wall broken down by the Kool-Aid Man with help from Ribeiro.
Other partners poked fun at broader '80s trends that have not aged particularly well. Jack in the Box's commercial with Beals parodies boxy shoulder pads with "Shoulder Patties" — burgers people can hide under the blazer for a furtive snack at work.
Aviation, a relatively new brand, stood out for its lack of clear connection to the decade, while its messages still targeted specific touchstones like Reagan's 1984 presidential campaign — a transformative piece of political advertising — and "Do you know where your children are?"
The news notches another potential creative win for Reynolds' Maximum Effort agency, which has scored accolades for its focus on self-referential, pop-culture-savvy output. MNTN, a "performance TV" ad-tech firm, acquired the shop in June in a bid to more closely wed creative and media functions.