“I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing” (1972)
- Howie Cohen, Copywriter and Bob
Pasqualina, Art Director
"People need to be communicated with in an emotional way, and
storytelling is the best way to do that."
— Howie Cohen
We worked with Howie, Bob and Alka-Seltzer to give their iconic character ‘Ralph’ a whole new level of relevance and re-connect the brand to the famous phrase, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
The Original Ad
When “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” hit America’s screens, there were only four stations, and remote controls were a rare commodity.
So it wasn’t long before their simple phrase was being repeated at dinner tables and water coolers around the country. Decades later and the line remains a part of popular culture, referenced on shows such as The Simpsons and immortalized in the game Trivial Pursuit. Howie and Bob’s commercial quip was selected as one of the ten best quotes of the decade by Newsweek and the spot was elected into the Clio Hall of Fame.
Bob Pasqualina and Howie Cohen
Bob Pasqualina and Howie Cohen began working together as a young creative team at advertising agency Wells, Rich, Greene. After creating some of the agency’s most successful work, the pair founded their own agency, Cohen, Pasqualina & Timberman, before eventually returning to Wells, Rich, Greene to serve as co-creative directors of the LA office. Howie still lives in Los Angeles with his wife and is currently CCO of The Phelps Group. Bob is happily retired and lives in Massachusetts with his partner Trisha.
The Original Brief
The Re-imagined Work
The Original Brief
Entrench Alka-Seltzer in American culture as the go-to solution for indigestion and heartburn.
The Original Work
Howie and Bob’s commercial depicted a middle-aged couple and an ailment that all of America could instantly relate to, and a catchy line that made them laugh - “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”.
The Re-imagined Work
The re-imagined ads tell the story of “The day Ralph ate the whole thing”, leading up to the iconic moment captured in the original ad. Setup as a 1970’s sitcom, a series of short episodes follows Ralph’s day over breakfast, lunch and dinner, shown through interactive display and mobile ads. Each ad impression is personalized for the viewer based on their location, interests, time of day and other factors. Every episode also provides users a unique way to interact with Ralph.
The New Ad
The original ad showed the iconic moment where Ralph said the now famous line,
“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. The re-imagined ads tell the story of “The
day Ralph ate the whole thing”, leading up to that moment. Setup as a 1970’s
sitcom, a series of short episodes follows Ralph’s day over breakfast, lunch and
dinner, shown through interactive display and mobile ads. Each ad impression is
personalized for the viewer based on their location, interests, time of day and
other factors. Each episode also provides users a unique way to interact with Ralph.
Targeting Techniques Are Creative Tools
To attract a user’s attention, each episode and ad impression is dynamically composed using context of the website / mobile app, viewer’s interests, demographic, location and other targeting signals. For example, in the morning a user sees Ralph’s breakfast incident, while in the evening the dinner story is shown. The location of each episode is tailored to the user’s location through StreetView, while weather data is used to create similar weather conditions to the viewer, including rain and snow.
The character roles, jobs and dialogs are personalized to the viewer based on their interests, ultimately making the stories more relatable. For example, contents of Ralph’s parcel in the lunch episode are based on the viewer’s interest - ranging from cutlery set to video games. Taking this further, if the ad is seen on YouTube, Ralph’s TV plays the same video, thus establishing instant connection between Ralph and the viewer.
Influence The Story
Each episode gives the viewer a chance to interact with Ralph, and alter the story. For example, a user can change radio stations in Ralph’s car, eliciting a unique, funny response for each genre; or viewers can call Ralph from their phone, and speak with him directly in the display ad. The novelty of the interactions make the watching experience that much more fun for the viewer.
Connect with Ralph
Users have an avenue to continue interacting with Ralph beyond the ad itself, and be a part of his daily fun with food, through his Google+ page.
How The Ad Works
Audience-Based Ad Serving
Audience targeting signals determine which story is presented to the user of the ad unit. On mobile devices, this is determined based on the user base profile of the app.→
Contextual Ad Serving
The context of the web page or app is used to determine which story should be shown to the user.
Site-Specific Ad Serving
Audience signals determine which of the stories to play.
Ad SelectionBased On Time Cue
A breakfast, lunch, dinner or bedtime film plays depending on the time of day.→
The ad is selected for the user and served to them on mobile, tablet or desktop.→
Dynamically-Composed Short Film
As the film plays, cues are used. These cues include audience information, geolocation, time, date, device and weather. Each cue augments the story to make it more relevant to the user.→ →
Device-Specific Interactive Moments
Interactive moments prompt the user to become part of each story.→
Outcomes Based on Interaction
If the user takes part in the interactive sequence of the film, they get a surprising and humorous reaction to propel the story forward. The story continues in a different way if the user doesn’t react.→
Users can get a dynamically-generated coupon that pulls in their geolocation to find a local store.→
Users can continue their experience with Ralph on Google+ interacting with 91 year-old Milt Moss.