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The Power of Nostalgic Characters in Advertising



Born Licensing's David Born takes a look at why characters keep popping up in campaigns around the world

The Power of Nostalgic Characters in Advertising

When I was a young red headed, freckle faced boy growing up in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne I remember watching VHS tapes of Masters of the Universe.

Decades later I found myself in London on the set of the ‘Epic Skeletor’ campaign next to the very characters I had watched all those years ago. He-Man and Skeletor had come to life thanks to the brilliant creative by the Mother London team and the incredible character suits.

Like most of the generation that grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, no longer am I sporting fluorescent slap bands and dancing to the Macarena (heyyyyy Macarena!).

Instead I’m investigating the best ways to explore the world, looking for the best valued car insurance and comparing mortgage options. Rather than choosing between collecting Beanie Babies or Trolls, I’m making major decisions on how to spend my money and shape my future.

This is the reason why iconic characters from decades ago are making a comeback and finding themselves on televisions once again. But this time they’re in the ads rather than the shows themselves.

Here’s a few campaigns we’ve spotted lately that feature characters that became popular decades ago:

- Action Man, Skeletor and He-Man for Moneysupermarket

- The Muppets for Barclaycard

- The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, TopCat, Thunderbirds and The Wizard of Oz for Halifax

- The Famous Five for Great Western Rail

You’ll notice that all of these characters have one thing in common.


Like me, those who watched He-Man and his evil archenemy Skeletor in the 80’s animation are now decades older. They too are at the point of their lives where they are seeking home loans and buying car insurance.

Those who readabout the adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne and Georgina and their dog Timmy are now likely to have the disposable income to have adventures on their own, presumably by train.

Those who played with Action Man are …. well some of them are still playing with Action Man!

These characters come with cherished childhood memories, allowing viewers to remember fond times.

But this isn’t the only benefit of using iconic characters in advertising. Here are 5 other reasons why you’re seeing more characters in advertising:

1. Using a well-known character can allow an advertiser to tap into existing awareness and a loyal fan base.

2. It can successfully pinpoint and speak directly to a specific demographic.

3. It can help cut through the clutter of the reported 4,000 – 10,000 ads consumers are exposed to on a daily basis.Using a well-known character in an ad is likely to capture someone’s attention.

4. It is likely to result in viewers talking about it and sharing the campaign on social media. In fact, Moneysupermarket’s ‘Epic Lift’ campaign generated over 35,000 mentions an hour of Twitter and#Moneysupermarket, #EpicSkeletor and #DirtyDancing were all trending across the UK.

5. It can add value to a brand, particularly if that brand is looking to increase or change its profile.

I’ve been in the business of character for licensing for over 12 years and have seen it all. Elmo on egg cartons. Darth Vadar on scratch cards. G.I. Joe selling cars. A Transformer selling actual houses….!

There is no end to the power of using nostalgic characters in the advertising space, and I’m sure we’ll see much more in the years to come.

David Born is Owner and Director of Born Licensing, a firm that specialises in the licensing of characters, clips, film, TV, animation, icons, emojis, toys & games and publishing for advertising campaigns.

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Born Licensing, Thu, 02 Aug 2018 10:57:37 GMT