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My favourite ad of all time: Alka Seltzer’s ‘Dissolve Your Problems’ from 2008

McCann Worldgroup's Alfred Wee on a campaign for Alka Seltzer that could possibly crack advertising's very own 10-year-challenge: being relevant and inspiring even a decade after it was first created

The year was 2009.

The world watched the inauguration of the first African American US President Barack Obama, Minecraft had just released its pre-classic version (known as ‘Cave Game’ before being renamed as Minecraft: Order of the Stone and eventually being sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion), Bitcoin was valued at only $0.0001, and Kickstarter and Quora had just launched.

Despite the lingering effects of the economic crisis at the time, it felt like a year of many ‘firsts’. It was a first for me as well.

I had just started at a new agency and wanted to offer as much as I could to be part of a change. ‘Game on’ was the attitude for everything; from the briefs that came my way to doing the work required to instil a creative culture.

Part of that effort was our regular Friday lunch-and-learn session; a creative get-together where we would  have a sandwich in one hand and a notebook in the other, sharing and discussing a variety of brilliant work from all around the world.

In a world where regular people installed ad blockers in their browsers, we were turning ads into a thing of science and entertainment.

It was during one of those sessions that a particular campaign stood out and still continues to intrigue and tickle me today.

The campaign had just won a Yellow Pencil at D&AD. Created by CLM BBDO, Paris, the work also picked up multiple golds across the world including Cannes in 2009.

This series of ads was ‘Dissolve Your Problems’ for Alka Seltzer.

The ads were crafted with one thing in mind: to carry through a simple visual language that delivers a witty end line. This made the ads clever and charming. One may argue that many ads do that today, but this was back in 2009, and I was smitten.

Visual advertising techniques have proven to be both effective and successful before. Probably even more so 10 years on with Generation Z and millennials as digital natives known for their short attention span and tendency to communicate using visuals.

A 2015 study from Microsoft revealed that an average person’s attention is now less than that of a goldfish at a mere eight seconds. This leads us to the discussion of whether there is relevance for an ad produced a decade ago in 2019.

Well, I guess it depends on who’s reading this article.

Alfred Wee is creative director at McCann Worldgroup. He is based in Singapore.

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