Stiller & Meara’s radio wine ad helped sell millions of cases of Blue Nun
In one respect, this 1970s Stiller & Meara radio wine ad for Blue Nun is nothing more than Ed Sullivan show-style stand-up comic corniness, complete with bad puns and worse one-liners. “How did I know you’re a stranger?” asks Anne Meara. Answers Jerry Stiller, not missing a beat despite the fact that the joke is probably as old as jokes get: “That’s right, Elliot Stranger.”
So why does the ad work?
Because it doesn’t make wine something that it’s not, like almost every wine ad we’ve looked at on the blog. It’s not snotty and it’s not about beautiful people being beautiful, the two most common faults of wine advertising. Rather, it focuses on two seemingly ordinary people, one of whom wants to buy wine for a dinner party. So why not buy Blue Nun, “the delicious white wine that’s correct with any dish”?
In the end, isn’t that what we’re all looking for, whether wine-guzzling Baby Boomer or hard seltzer drinking Millennial? Doesn’t everyone want something enjoyable to drink with dinner without any fuss and bother? Instead, we get snobby art openings and double entendre kangaroos.
The ads were a smash hit, costing just $70,000 (not even a lot of money in those long ago days), and helped Blue Nun sell 2 million cases a year in the U.S. by the mid-1980s. They also gave Stiller, who died this week at 92, something to do between the end of the duo’s performing days and his cranky TV supporting parts on “Seinfeld” and “King of Queens.” Meara, his wife of 61 years, died in 2015 at the age of 85.
Ironically, despite the success of the radio ads, much of the rest of Blue Nun’s advertising is just as ordinary as the rest of wine’s efforts. Which isn’t all that surprising, is it?
Ad courtesy of musicalcliff via YouTube, using a Creative Commons license