What was the last product demo you saw?
Not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, they’re all over those, but on tv, billboards or press (does press still exist?).
You just don’t see agencies doing them anymore.
Odd, because, and I hope I’m not giving away any trade secrets here, the goal of most advertising is to persuade people that the product featured is good.
Ideally, REALLY good.
So showing it in action, performing well, seems like it might be a good way to go?
Because most purchasing decisions are based on what a product does.
But sometimes in ad agencies, we can get too distracted with our own fancy theories and philosophies.
Not just in agencies, sometimes when I teach I’ll review work that, although clever, doesn’t feel like it’ll sell anything.
It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to sell anything.
Would you buy that cereal because you’re told it’s what the cool folks eat?
Or a computer because the company that makes it has some very progressive social policies?
But most wouldn’t, they want to know what’s in it for them.
My advice when such a situation arises is always the same; imagine you’re with a friend, face to face, how would you persuade them to buy this product?.
They know they can’t waffle and bullshit friends, so they stop trying.
Instead, they start thinking about why their friend may actually part with money for this product.
Focussing on what it does.
How it may help them.
The ideas often become less grandiose and more like common-sense advice.
Which is more persuasive.
As the saying goes – Don’t tell me you’re funny, make me laugh.
So why are we producing less product demos?
Less products to warrant that type of advertising today?
Would that kind of ‘hard sell’ advertising reflect badly on a brand today?
Or that it would reflect badly on us?
(Answers on a postcard, etc, etc.)

p.s.  I couldn’t help wondering if the British Government spent less money telling people what to do about Covid-19 and more on demonstrating the benefits of wearing masks and washing hands, the situation may be a bit better?

E.g. 1. Masks.

E.g. 2. Soap.


When I gathered together this bunch, I didn’t look through awards sites or annuals, I just tried to remember product demonstrations, ones that had stuck with me.
Consequently, there are some ads in here that I couldn’t tell you when or where they were done, like Tonka and the nail varnish ad.
But having collated all of this ‘unfashionable’ work, it dawned on me that most of it was created by the most fashionable agencies.
At least, the most fashionable in their of the day.
Written by the likes of George Lois, Roy Grace, Dave Trott, David Abbott, John Webster, Ron Collins.
Maybe they knew something we don’t?


Reader suggestions:


  1. Keith Bickel says:

    Hello Dave,

    You have an encicle encyclcle enclyklo encycliopediatric knowledge of ads… around the mid 1990’s I remember seeing a reel of recent award winning stuff which featured a commercial for car headlight lamps. It may have been done by a South African agency… I’ve tried to find it several times since, but to no avail. Perhaps you can remember it?

    This is how it went

    Night time in the country side.
    Pitch black.
    Gradually, little by little, night becomes dawn.
    The sky lightens.
    Birds awake and start singing.
    The landscape becomes illuminated by bright sunlight.
    A car drives past.
    We’re plunged back into pitch black night.

    A pack shot of a car headlamp and logo fades up out of black.

    Remember thinking, ‘Wish I’d done that’. Still do.

    Ring any bells?

    Hope you are staying safe.



  2. Vinny Warren says:

    Love this post. i have always thought that all the best ads are always really demonstration ads. things you just can’t argue with. Guinness Surfer is a demonstration ad really. The 1970s was the golden age of the naked demo ad. Remember the hot girl running up the side of the Aztec pyramid for Sure deodorant? And the dolphin with the waterproof band aid on its head? they really stick with you.

  3. Tish Mousell says:

    Inspiration on a Tuesday morning. Thank you Dave Dye. I hope you’re writing a book x

  4. In a short article with amazing pictures and videos, we get a high class demonstration of what is good advertising. The real thing. Nostalgia times. Will it come back?
    I could have added ‘She’d move to Florida but the weather sucks there’ from Columbia with Gert Boyle. Brilliant !

  5. Alex Collins says:

    Dave, why is it that the more I read these types of posts the more brands today seem to ignore common sense marketing? What’s the solution?

    • Jennifer says:

      My late father is at the helm in the Parker Pen ‘Mr Price’ advert. I only saw it after he’d died and often wondered if he’d really been in the advert! Lovely to see him doing what he loved.

  6. Alex says:

    What’s the answer Dave? If agencies buy into purpose over product and clients continue to fall victim to the false consensus effect, what’s going to change the course of advertising so my kids look back in 20 years talking about the great ads they remember?

  7. stephen gash says:

    Good post Dave. At BBH the Account Team was told to ‘interrogate the product’ in an effort to find the stuff the creatives could bring to life in the idea. This spot (forgive the terrible quality) could never be described as one of the agency’s best ads….but it’s not a bad example of showing that the product was good one.

    Credit to Sir Nigel for spotting the opportunity when he heard the story.

  8. Rob Kitchen says:

    Excellent post, as usual, Dave. Such a mystery why the demo ad has gone out of fashion. What does fashion have to do with it? Is it that it’s not considered ‘clever’ enough? If a product is significantly better than its competitors, it’s just plain irresponsible not to show that. P&G loves a demo, of course, but it’s also possible to do it in a more engaging, memorable way. For instance, this Tony Kaye directed ad for Olivetti computers made its point brilliantly:

    I was also very jealous of James Lowther’s road safety ad which said ‘To make this car disappear, put your fingers over its headlights’.

    And, sparing my own blushes, I’d say the posters for Araldite were pretty strong examples too.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Rob,
      Love the Olivetti one.
      Love the road safety one.
      And Araldite are some of the best posters ever – who could drive past without looking.
      The reason I didn’t put Araldite in is that, to me, the cars weren’t stuck to the poster, there were iron girders or something behind the billboard.
      Which is fine by me, it made that glue famous, but is it a product demo, all the folks at SFTL said no.
      I know you’ll challenge this harsh decision, so off you go….

      • Rob Kitchen says:

        Oooh – very harsh!
        I suggested at the time that the billboard was made of Bismarck-strength steel to get round the problem of the plywood giving way under the strain, but the contractor decided that a girder at the back was less faff. It was still stuck there. With Araldite. It had to be, to be legal, decent, honest and truthful. So it worked as a proper demo as far as we were concerned.
        Still love ya, though!
        Rob x
        P.S. Pardon my ignorance, but who are SFTL?

      • dave dye says:

        Hey Rob,
        A car stuck to a poster with glue?
        I’m not saying it’s not a good glue, but there’s not enough flat side of car to glue it on for a start.
        The gravity on the overhang would pull it down.
        And when hidden steel girders are mentioned I have to put my foot down.
        Great ad though.
        Oh, and when I say the fact-checkers at SFTL’, I’m referring the totally made up people who work at the Stuff From The Loft Organisation.
        Hope you’re well.

      • Rob Kitchen says:

        Ah – THOSE people at SFTL! Haha!
        Well, I hate to argue, Dave, but I was a stickler for making sure that the car was glued there. No cheating. The stuff is stronger than a steel weld.
        You’re right, there was a massive cantilever strain on it, but the engineers from Ciba Geigy used a shit ton of glue. They made a jig to fit the curve of the car and glued it there. When I asked if they were absolutely sure the car wouldn’t come off (how embarrassing would that be?), they said to be safe they’d worked out the bond could take more than double the weight – hence what we did with it the following year.
        Yes, I’m well, ta. Hope you are too.
        If it wasn’t for a certain pandemic, I’d invite you down for a visit to give another talk. Maybe once we’ve all been jabbed, eh?
        All the best.
        Rob. x

  9. Tonimoroni says:


    Direct Mail

  10. Mboro says:

    Asking as an ad student. Should we them write advertisement copy projecting emotional benefit of a brand/product or the functional benefit?

    • dave dye says:

      Depends what your selling.
      I might need a functional benefit to switch banks but emotion may change the way I feel about a certain beer.

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