Back in the 1960s, Anacin launched a series of TV commercials with an animated graphic showing how people feel when they have a headache. The pain was classically depicted by a coiling spring and lightning bolts and sometimes a pounding hammer. It hurt to watch.
Rosser Reeves, the legendary king of hard-sell advertising, invented that scary spot for the Ted Bates Worldwide agency, and once bragged to Bill Moyers that it was “perhaps the most hated commercial on the air at that time.” It get mentioned on lists of the most annoying commercials ever. But Anacin sales skyrocketed.
New commercials for Excedrin Extra Strength certainly aren’t aiming to take Anacin’s place on the list, but research the brand did seems to fortify the idea that headache sufferers often describe their pain in stark, painful terms.
Its “We See Your Pain” commercials attempt to bring headache pain “visualizations to life in relatable settings (i.e. a kids birthday party),” according to the company. The GlaxoSmithKline brand says it gained insight by “listening to consumer commentary on social media.”
James Masterson, the Excedrin marketing director, amplified that point: "People describe headaches with such vivid imagery -- waves crashing, a wrecking ball, gears grinding," he said in a statement. "Through our 'We See Your Pain'campaign, we hope to demonstrate a new kind of understanding and relief for head pain sufferers.”
One commercial, titled “The Pounding Headache” shows powerful ocean waves crashing within a woman’s skull. “Excedrin sees your relentless, pounding headache, even if no one else can,” a voiceover says. Another, showing violent lightning sparking around a woman’s head, contains similar language, except this time Excedrin “sees your intense, piercing headache.” That commercial is called “The Striking Headache.”
The social media findings led to a little marketing gimmick. Sonal Modi, the associate brand manager for Excedrin, explained, “In our social listening we saw that commuting, ‘adulting’ and dating were universal headache topics among our consumers and so we identified those as an opportunity to provide some relief.”
Excedrin introduced, or seemed to introduce, specially packaged Limited Editions including a “Commuter Edition," "Bad Date Edition" and "Adulting Edition."
Samples of The Commuter Edition, marked for people hassled by public transit, were given out Wednesday at Penn Station in New York City, and the stock disappeared quickly. The others were available online -- but apparently just for a split second -- and are already ”out of stock.”
The spokeswoman said Excedrin is working with “Bachelor” personalities Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon to promote the Bad Date pill.