Avis and Leo Burnett scrap famous “We Try Harder” slogan for something spacey.

August 30, 2012

“It’s your Space” campaign for Avis, Leo Burnett

Brands change their advertising all the time. If they didn’t we agency folks wouldn’t have jobs. Sometimes it’s the right move. Other times not. Occasionally, however, a change in campaigns bears notice. Take Avis rental cars for example. After half a century of “trying harder” they have altered their theme to “It’s your Space.” This brazen move was orchestrated by a new CMO and executed by none other than my alma mater, the Leo Burnett Company.

I won’t rewrite the AdAge article. It’s here. Suffice to say, the new head of marketing had her reasons: a messy combination of research, intuition and just plain wanting to mark her territory. Whether LBCO’s strategy people were held hostage or in complete support I have no idea. The party line is ‘times change’ and the venerable axiom “We Try Harder” had run its course.

I’m not convinced. In a crowded and commoditized market why wouldn’t a customer respond to a company that tried harder than its competition? Seems like new executions would have been more desirable than chucking the mantra. Especially given it was replaced by a challenging notion that one’s rental car is one’s personal space. Or some such. Honestly, after watching these new commercials I’m not sure what to think. They seem kind of random. And for me: déjà vu.

Some years ago I worked on the Maytag account at Leo Burnett. I wrote several commercials featuring the now deceased Gordon Jump as the famous Maytag Repairman or, as he was also known, “Old Lonely.” I considered it a privilege working on this American Icon.

(Maytag TVC parodying then popular Marine’s campaign)

Anyway, the client had come to the conclusion that “dependability” was no longer relevant to modern audiences. The new customer, they exhorted, wanted innovation and technology. Really, I wondered (quite loudly), in a washing machine? I just want mine to work and work and work. I also pointed out that ‘never breaking’ was likely an illegal claim in the modern world. The implication being that if Maytag walked away from it they might not ever be able to return.

Nobody listened. As I recall, Maytag did a series of forgettable one-off commercials. Soon after, the company was bought by a Chinese entity and faded into whatever sad state it is in now. Somewhere in there we lost the business. However, it’s safe to say the business was already lost.

And so we have another American institution, Avis, under the auspices of Leo Burnett, abandoning its famous mantra for a new strategy and theme. My spider sense is tingling…


5 Responses to “Avis and Leo Burnett scrap famous “We Try Harder” slogan for something spacey.”

  1. fransiweinstein said

    You are SO right.

  2. Stef, I agree with the irony of Leo of all agencies abandoning the equity of “we try harder” (even if it came from another agency). The reason the line has endured and is still very much relevant (and could be even more so with refreshed executions and emphasis – who isn’t trying harder these days, talk about a relatable position) is because it’s more than a tagline, it’s an insight. a real one. Unlike this new campaign which is neither.

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