Buckley’s marks 100th with a century’s worth of awful faces

Who: Buckley’s, with Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis for media, Wunderman Thompson for digital, Edelman for PR and photography by Dave Todon through Instil.

What: A special 100th anniversary campaign for the proudly awful-tasting cough medicine that includes 101 posters of people experiencing Buckley’s going back to its launch in 1919.

When & Where: The timely pre-flu season campaign is in market now, running for two months. It includes dominations of subway interiors along Toronto’s busy Yonge/University line, while digital drives people to a special interactive site showing all 101 executions.

Why: Buckley’s has strong market awareness, but wanted something special to mark the brand’s centenary. “The brief, in short, was to celebrate the brand’s 100-year anniversary by reminding Canadians that over the past century the one thing that hasn’t changed is that Buckley’s tastes awful and it works,” said Brian Sheppard, Saatchi’s executive creative director.

How: The campaign is built around 101 different posters, each showing a person of the era making their own tastes-awful face. The creative team of Rob Gendron and Craig Brandon spent a lot of time and effort finding the right mix of characters and ensuring details like hair and wardrobe were right.

“We had a war room up inside the agency for three months with the walls covered floor to ceiling with visual references, and potential faces and stories,” said Sheppard. “There’s a wonderful creative friction here, since the campaign is celebrating those awful face moments before the relief comes, which is a key Buckley’s equity.”

What about digital? Aside from the posters, digital creative (paid Facebook and Instagram posts, along with YouTube pre-roll) drives to a special 100th anniversary site that showcases all 101 executions, accompanied by a historical factoid humorously connected to Buckley’s.

There’s also a Spotify playlist featuring a collection of bad taste songs through the years, with choice selections including “Ice Ice Baby” and “Who Let the Dogs Out.” “Of course, everybody’s musical taste is different, but this was done in the same spirit of fun and irreverence as the rest of the campaign,” said Sheppard. (But are we sure Rock Me Amadeus was bad taste and not kinda cool avant-garde Europop?)

Quote: “There were a number of great ideas, but all of us—client included—knew as soon as we saw it that this one idea nailed it.” —Brian Sheppard, Saatchi & Saatchi executive creative director.

David Brown