Goodby Pulls Häagen-Dazs Back From 1980s Limbo

Imagine a brand so hopelessly trapped in the ’80s that the mere mention of its name invokes unflattering images of everything wrong with that decade.

That was the problem Goodby, Silverstein & Partners says it faced when it took Häagen-Dazs’ $5-10 million account in November from J. Walter Thompson without a review. The Omnicom Group agency addresses it in its first work for the client—one spot that broke in the past month and two more that are upcoming.

The strategy was to focus on the premium ice cream’s product quality rather than an image of snootiness, said Albert Kelly, associate creative director at the San Francisco shop.

The first new spot, “Anthem,” opens with a blue background and the words, “There is a school of thought … that less is more.” Nature scenes follow, showing umbrellas opening on a beach, raindrops falling on a pond, clouds parting and a lone tree standing next to a field, all set to soothing piano music. Copy reads, “Elegance is simplicity. This is how we make our ice cream.” The spot ends with Goodby’s new tagline, “Häagen-Dazs. Made like no other.”

Two other commercials, “Strawberry” and “Vanilla,” break in the next few weeks and illustrate that the company gets high-quality ingredients from the best locations, such as a strawberry farm and a vanilla plant. The spots were filmed in Spain and Malaysia, respectively, said principal and co-creative director Jeff Goodby.

The client wanted to “present the brand in a more contemporary fashion,” said David Ritterbush, vp of marketing at parent company Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream in Oakland, Calif.

“The name brought up cheesy luxury, and [people] thought of snobby hedonism in the ’80s, like the guy in the ascot leaning against the Bentley,” Kelly said. “The image had become outdated.”

The brand had a “Donald Trump-ish, golden-brown boudoir feeling to it. And the advertising reinforced it,” Goodby added. “Our job was to re-establish it as a terrific product.”

Häagen-Dazs has advertised little in the past decade, and the campaigns it did run focused on luxury, with taglines like, “Pure pleasure” and “Just perfect.”

Häagen-Dazs was supported by some $10 million in ad spending in 2003, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Industry analysts said Häagen-Dazs’ challenge is formidable but not unprecedented. Gordon Hochhalter, a partner at brand-consulting firm Mobium Creative Group in Chicago, pointed to Apple as an example—a company that made a splash with “1984” and the Macintosh, then lost much of its brand identity before reclaiming it with the iMac, iPod and “Think different” campaign.

JWT had handled Häagen-Dazs since 2002. Universal McCann handles media.