Nothing sucks like an ad myth

 
 
 

Nothing sucks like an ad myth

Oy vey. I've spotted this in a few Swedish blogs recently, and then to top it all off someone mentioned it at work - the old "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux" myth. It goes a little something like this and can be found on countless funny pages, in silly list emails, and spoken during water cooler chats in offices around the world.

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign, "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux".

The funny of course being that Swedes are unaware of the double entendre.

Here is the mythical ad poster.

(originally posted in the comments for "both of these ads really suck")

So lets be clear, it was not an American ad, it was a British advertising poster, and the pun was intended. Look, the Electrolux sucks so hard it explains the leaning tower of Pisa.

The ad agency was Cogent Elliot - and this was one of the questions that had everyone stumped in the ad trivia game.

Sorry about the photocopy, but it's all I could get my hands on and many thanks to adlister Michiel who had this in his scrap book. The ad won some sort of UK ad award back in the early nineties, most likely 1991 though I don't know which one. Are there any adgrunts out there armed with a collection of old award books or otherwise clued in to more details about this ad, like names of creative who made it and such? I want to put this ad myth to death already - the "nothing sucks like an Electrolux" ad was real but British. And don't let anyone tell you any different.

Snark Hunting even snarked about it when they read and article in the San Francisco Chronicle that "trot out the same old apocryphal tales of ad campaigns that got lost in translation."

What will it take to kill this myth?

Adland: 

Comments

It irks me that journalists seem bent on spreading myths rather than reporting facts.

Thing is, it's easy to continue reporting a myth - by accident. Just say "according to ". Nobody wants to admit that on occasion, someone might get it wrong, yaknow? :)

Hmm...  I was once friendly with a Swedish girl who went to work as an au pair for a member of the Hoover™ family in New York.  I recall that they took great joy in telling her that Electrolux sucked as she was made to vacuum the carpets in their swanky mansion with a Hoover™.  

We Americans can be so nationalistic! Imagine, vacuum cleaner wars with Sweden! 

This advertising campaign was used in the UK during the 1960's - it was already known what "sucks" means in the US sense and they hoped the double entendre would gain attention. Unfortunately it didn't make the splash they hoped for ......

But this advert is no myth - it's real!!

Wow. I know that people don't read past the headline, but for fucks sake, at least try.

The ad itself wasn't a myth: however the idea that Electrolux did not know what sucks meant, and that it was a mistake made by a Swedish company who weren't all that familiar with English, is a myth. Also the part that the ad ran in the USA is a myth. The ad ran in the UK only, and the "sucks" pun is very much intentional.

Everyone clear on this now? If you've seen this Electrolux campaign in any US advertising media, please dig up a reliable source to support this assertion. By realieable I mean "not the San Francisco Chronicle", instead our tradepress, ad agency releases or award shows.

So, phrases like this one found in the International Business: Fourth Edition. Czinkota, Ronkainen and Moffett, Dryden Press, 1996 may have snowballed the idea that a US version existed, and that 'slang' somehow made the pun less funny in American English vs British English (to me it seems as if the author of this book didn't get the pun at all).

...The two advertising campaigns presented in figure 9.1 highlight the difficulties of transferring advertising campaigns across markets. Electrolux's theme for vacuum cleaners is taken literally in the United Kingdom, but in the United States, slang implications interfere with the intended message...

It's also interesting that you just dated the ad back to the 60s, when we've seen it win awards in 1991. So it ran with that line for twenty odd years before anyone bothered to award it something? Not bloody likely.

tl;dr The ad ran with the pun being intentional, both visual and words. It ran in the UK only. It won awards for being funny. It's a pretty typical example of early 90s UK advertising.

The problem with the ad is that it reinforced a commonly held (and not entirely unwarranted) belief that 'Lux vacuum cleaners weren't much cop. Working for a large department store group at the time even the Electrolux reps found this one very funny - and not in a good way. Add in the story going around at the time telling the story of a man and his appendage, a Hoover hand-held vacuum cleaner and the local casualty department and it was all bound to backfire. Not quite the Hoover free flight debacle (which almost killed off the brand - or at least sent into the arms of Candy), but a reasonable second.

I worked for Electrolux during this time when this campaign was launched (though not in marketing). It is correct to say that it was a UK campaign, but certainly some people were aware of the double meaning. The rumour within the company at this time was that the suggestion for the campaign came from the newly appointed, very abrasive and much disliked, managing director. He, it was said, had lectured the advertising people on their uselessness and told them they needed a short slogan like"Nothing sucks like an Electrolux". Fully aware of the double entendre the advertising department went with his suggestion. I believe it was the same MD who rejected the design of a certain Mr Dyson.

Would love to see a source other than "I heard". You're erasing the fact that copywriters usually do the job of writing the lines seen in ads, while "marketing execs" love to take credit for it.

I worked for the advertising agency that produced this poster. Cogent Elliott in the good ol' U of K.
It was entirely intended as a double entendre. You know, make 'em smile...

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