The art of advertising


“Sprite Cranberry,” one of the first successful meme ads, set the precedent of appealing to Gen-Z through their humor. Its interesting art style and song catered to a younger audience while not making it apparent, leading to its popularity.

Robert Stotz, Staff Writer

Gen-Z can be difficult.

Being the largest and most diverse generation, categorizing us by a single feature can be extremely assuming. With everything we do, what could possibly sum us up in one word?

For some unfortunate and highly entertaining reason, fast food advertisements have chosen the word “meme.”

Now, to be clear, a “meme ad” in my book doesn’t mean explicitly referencing a meme, but an ad or product temporarily becoming big on social media. Unfortunately, most meme ads attempt to relate to “the kids,” but end
up getting mocked by said kids.

One classic example is Wendy’s 2015, “Eat Spicy Goodness Like a Boss.” Just the act of typing that pained me, so one can only imagine how it rattled social media. The ad featured the reactions of three groups to their newest sandwich, all of which are clearly meant for “the kids.” This groups include “the selfiers,” cutting it close but it can slide, the “behind the timeser,” a failed attempt at separating themselves from the outdated group that they would proceed to become a part of, and the most haneos of the three, the “memer.” This involved the said memer to turn towards the camera and, as the name of the ad implies, quote “Eat spicy goodness, like a boss,” with the impact font of the text following along.

The ad certainly got a response from the community, although positive is not the word I’m looking for. The overall buzz surrounding the ad sparked a wave of poorly thought-out ads each revolving around a trending meme format, inevitably earning this crude style of advertising a well-deserved bad name. It wasn’t until the Renaissance of meme ads came along in the form of “Sprite Cranberry” that we would see the revitalization of this esteemed format.

Contrary to all former meme ads at the time, “Sprite Cranberry” opened the doors to alternative methods of catering. As opposed to actively relating to the youth through outdated meme formats, Sprite took the route of appealing to Gen-Z humor. The combination of the interesting art style, memeable song, and a LeBron James spokesperson made for an ad that in all aspects was meant for Gen-Z, but wasn’t written for them. By passively catering components of the ad to their humor, it can perform well while not seeming like a halfhearted attempt to relate to the kids, the definition of a good meme ad.

This style of advertising would continue innovating almost solely within the fast-food industry, some of the most influential advancements taking place just last year. The most recent change to the format of the meme ad was McDonald’s Travis Scott burger. As opposed to creating an advertisement, McDonalds opted for a single product to meme. Now as successful as the meal was, it was by no means a breakthrough in the fast food industry. McDonalds simply compiled choice menu items and stuck a rapper’s name on it. What elevated it to the status it’s known for was the free hype and advertising from almost every content creator looking to get in on the trend, raising its popularity.

Whether you were making fun of how unoriginal the Travis Scott burger was, or ordering it just to see why it’s so big, you bought one. And that’s why these meme ads work. It doesn’t matter how good the actual ad campaign is, all that matters is how big it gets. All press is good press, especially in the fast food business where anyone can spend six dollars to join in on the fun.

With clear signs of these unconventional ads doing so well, it is entirely possible that the movement could expand its range into the farthest corners of retailing. I for one am in favor of this change. Although it certainly helps to be on the receiving end of the spectrum, seeing these ads more and more often makes being a consumer enjoyable. With clear competition appealing to our generation, the quality of everyday advertisements can only improve as time goes on.