Happy Freakin’ Monday Ep 25 – The Oliver Jewellery Advertising Approach

If you lived in Ontario during the 90’s then you know Oliver Jewellery. It is a Cash for Gold jewellery store on eglinton Avenue in toronto (now with multiple locations). The owner, Russell Oliver is a local celebrity because of his persistent, television advertising approach from the 90s to mid 2000’s.

He may still be on television but that’s around the time I got rid of cable and stopped seeing his outlandish ads. I say that because they were loud, aggressive and seemed to get more and more off the wall each year. He often liked to play dress-up, most notably as “Cashman” who is wearing a superhero costume that leaves nothing to the imagination and waves huge wads of cash in one hand and gold chains and jewellery in the other.

He loved to yell at you, wave his arms around, and especially throw cash around and would stop at nothing to get your attention. Basically he is a real life version of Saul Goodman, the character from Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul.

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Oliver, I guarantee there was someone in your area just like him, doing something very similar. That’s because it worked. No one can deny that his advertising was very effective. However, here is my take on his approach and why it probably wouldn’t work for you.

At this time in the mid 90’s I would say was the peak for local affiliate television stations that were reaching smaller city centres and even rural communities. It was before Cable television had extended into these areas, before satellite television was widely available and waaay before streaming was even a thought in anyone’s head.

So this meant that those local stations were capturing a large portion of the population and it was a captive audience because a lot of these areas didn’t get many channels so there not a lot of options. From my own experience, I grew up in a rural part of Ontario, with about 3 television stations (that was on a good day). I lived about 150km away from Oliver Jewellery in Toronto and yet we still saw his advertising on a regular basis. That tells me that he was casting a very wide net.

So whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit his advertising worked and here’s why:

  1. Mass Audience. I would assume that people who want or need quick cash for their jewellery do come from all walks of life. They may be in a lower income level but not necessarily. Oliver was going for the most eyeballs because he knew that his audience could be anyone and he got a lot of eyeballs.
  2. Frequency. I can only assume that they paid a small fortune for the frequency that they were getting. I remember seeing his ads run over and over again almost every commercial break sometimes. While it was annoying for most, the frequency ensured that no one would forget Russell Oliver.
  3. Brand Reputation. In one commercial Oliver proclaims that he will “stake his reputaton” on the fact that he pays more cash for gold than anyone. I find this funny because in the eyes of most consumers he doesn’t have a reputation. The business he operates in and his clientele are often considered shady and even criminal. The point is that his main target audience probably doesn’t care about his “reputation”. I think that once he realized this, that is when his ads really started getting creative.

With that in mind, let’s talk about recreating this approach today where most of those affiliate stations are gone and we just have so many options for entertainment that it’s hard to hit that many people. Most marketers want to just try and aim for “viral success” so that they don’t have to spend on media but the reality is that most viral marketing campaigns spend a lot on media to get that ball rolling.

My suggestion would be to boost videos on Facebook and YouTube and don’t hold back on the spend. Leave the demographics targeting open and cast that net as wide as you can. This would presumably get you to celebrity status if you keep it up for 10+ years.

When it comes to the creative, each of his ads were really simple concepts and scripting with lots of yelling. He is clearly not afraid to be different in order to get noticed and he kept pushing that envelope with each spot. Now the unfortunate part of this is that you might have a brand reputation that you want to uphold and that’s why this approach doesn’t work for most. That’s because it is possible to annoy people, or come off as pushy, untrustworthy, or a lot of other adjectives that come to mind when watching those old Oliver Jewellery ads. However, if you have the type of clients who don’t care, and the budget to keep that media running then go for it. You could be the next Russell “Cashman” Oliver. Just know, those are big, gold shoes to fill.

See you next week!

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