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Can ‘Heritage’ Ads Help Brands Cut Through The Noise In 2016?

It’s official…The most popular new content trend for 2016 is the “Heritage ad.” Vice President of Marketing & Insights Devra Prywes tells us more about this new Adland theme, and how brands can leverage their legacy to reach more people.

Last week, Peet’s Coffee and Stella Artois launched new, legacy-touting videos. Peet’s “Coffee First” campaign highlights the advertiser’s 50-year heritage and showcases its craft (the ad is coffee porn for coffee lovers). Stella’s “Be Legacy” enlightens viewers with a history lesson about its founder purchasing the brewery in an auction (who knew?).

We’re not even a quarter into 2016, and have already seen heritage videos from M&Ms, Jeep, Dodge, Budweiser, Pokemon and Coors Light. It’s highly unlikely that 2016 heralds an unusually high number of brand milestones and anniversaries. Rather the heritage trend shows that brands are leveraging their unique history (and the fact that they have a history) to stand out in a very cluttered landscape.

Celebrity spokespeople come and go, brand extensions and product features can be copied – but a legacy, and years of experience on the job, can’t be reproduced. These brands tend to leverage strong feelings of nostalgia, pride, amazement and inspiration to connect with viewers, and some are even riding other trends to help make their point.

So let’s take a look at some of this year’s heritage ads, and the different approaches advertisers are taking:

Jeep, Budweiser and Pokemon ran their heritage spots during the Super Bowl.  Jeep showcased X-sports in remote locations to allude to its ability to safely get drivers through all types of terrain in “4x4ever”,  and used stunning, stark black and white photos as a creative device to share a more worldly, and personal, history in “Portraits.” 



Budweiser used an angry, pulsing soundtrack to remind viewers of its badass legacy in #Not Backing Down. The Clydesdales are not ponies. There is nothing soft about its kegs and bottles. The brand is 100% American, and there’s not a fluffy puppy in sight. Oh, and they’ve been around since 1876. Mic Drop.  This is also a great example of another new trend this year, we can call “Mic Drop Moments.”  Budweiser isn’t only brand taking a tough stance and #OwningIt.



Pokemon’s Big Game spot highlighted the entertainment brand’s 20 year legacy with “Pokemon #20”.  This ad is also a great example of the emerging “Kidpowerment” trend.

Coors Light also came out with an empowering version of a heritage ad with its “Whatever Your Mountain” showing athletes conquering obstacles and accomplishing dramatic feats.

My favorite heritage ad of the year comes from M&Ms, which we now know turned 75. The candy maker launched an update of its classic “Candyman” song. Both the 60-second TV commercial and extended cut  make use of nostalgia, but mix in happiness and warmth – which is authentic and on-brand for the candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hands.  M&Ms takes us on a journey through its history of memorable commercials and characters, while Zedd and Aloe Blacc do a head-bopping, toe-tapping update of the Sammy Davis, Jr. “Candyman” song. Talk about a legacy!


Dodge gets an honorable mention for extending their heritage campaign (first launched in 2014 when the brand turned 100) into 2016 with new installments such as, Old Man Story Commercial.

While an exciting new content trend, it’s important to note that brands can’t simply launch a heritage ad and expect viral success. Whether incorporating humor, exhilaration, warmth, or even nostalgia into a heritage story, if advertisers want people to share their content, it ultimately comes down to how their ads make people feel.