Throwback Thursday is upon us and in addition to adding a hilarious, retro photo from Duncan/Day’s early, er, days to our Facebook page, I’m going to start giving a weekly salute to some of my favorite throwback advertising and marketing campaigns here on the Duncan Daily.
Today I’m taking a look at Nissan’s 1996 television commercial hereby referred to as Toys. Toys, developed by TBWA Chiat/Day, was one of my favorite as a child. Though I wasn’t in the market for a car (my Huffy got me around just fine), I was enamored with the commercial.
The spot had a most excellent soundtrack, Van Halen performing The Kinks’ classic “You Really Got Me,” and an action figure resembling a G.I. Joe driving like a maniac on his way to steal a very Barbie-looking doll from a very Ken-looking doll.
To a young Dan Sweeney, this commercial had it all – action figures, remote control cars, Van Halen – what wasn’t to love? Well, apparently Mattel, the makers of Barbie, didn’t share my sentiment.
The reason I was careful to use Barbie-looking and Ken-looking above was because that’s exactly what drew the ire of the toymaker. In 1997, Mattel Inc. actually sued the Nissan Motor Company over the commercial. Mattel looked to block all future broadcasts of the spot, seeking unspecified damages for “irreparable injury to Mattel’s name, business reputation and goodwill.”
Nissan fired back against Mattel’s legal team – alleging that Barbie’s line of descent to German doll Lilli was never admitted when Barbie was copyrighted more than 50 years ago.
Before sweet Barbie’s reputation could take anymore of a hit, the two companies settled within a few months and the commercial went on to win a few awards. Everyone wins and the commercial still holds a special place in my heart.