Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! – Luke Sullivan

Anyone living during the late 60’s to early 80’s will be familiar with commercial superstar, Mr. Whipple – the famed store owner who would advise customers “Don’t Squeeze The Charmin,” and then grab a furtive squeeze after he had run them off. Cheeky bastard!

Mr. Whipple is not a groundbreaking advertising concept.

There is nothing award winning here.

However, Charmin sales SKYROCKETED thanks to this ad campaign, which ran for over 21 years. At the height of the commercials popularity, Mr. Whipple was found to be the most recognizable face in America – beating out President Jimmy Carter.

Award winning copywriter and advertising giant Luke Sullivan’s “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!” is a deep dive into advertising; What it is, how to create it, what makes it effective, lasting, and how traditional advertising concepts can be applied to the modern/digital age.

In the beginning of the book, Sullivan locks in on the Whipple ad – Is the key to advertising annoying folks into buying things? Find something horrible, grating to put in an ad, capture the attention, and then sell them stuff? For this, we have to go back to the beginning of modern marketing.

Modern Marketing

Sullivan takes us back to post WW2 – the advertising landscape is not cluttered because there are only a few networks. Once TV networks starts to proliferate, brands start pushing out more products to compete – so modern marketing is born.

The goals of modern marketing are product differentiation and unique selling propositions. There are three other choices available to the consumer other than your product. So advertising becomes a chance to claim that top spot. Your ad has to defeat “The Wall” of ads that face consumers. An effective ad slides through the perceptual filter that blocks every other advertisement.

In advertisement, you’re not writing a novel – you’re creating something most people AVOID. Nobody wants to see it. People are indifferent or enraged at advertising. So how do you break through?

Bill Bernbach states the essential nature of creativity in advertisements very succinctly here

  • “The truth isn’t the truth till people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you are saying if they don’t listen, they won’t listen unless you’re interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

The brain behind many wildly successful and creative campaigns in the 60s, Bernbach’s classic style is undoubtedly the hero of the book. Sullivan suggests that great ads like Bernbach’s, challenge the audience, assumes they have a brain, and let’s them in on the joke.

His work with VW and Avis are legendary. Bernbach’s insistence on creating ads that stand out, that embrace the rough edges, that are frank, simple, honest, and impactful, are on display in these ads. It’s not just creativity for it’s own sake, it’s creativity in service of the brand – a fine line that advertising still walks today.

Nuts and Bolts – How To Create Advertisements

The majority of the book is a step-by-step framework on how to conceive and execute and deliver advertising concepts. The first step to creating an ad for a brand, is to DEEPLY understand and research the brand. Tour the factory, interview customers and staff, look at the numbers – when you really get to know a product or service from the tail to the snout, you can create a more impactful ad based on acquired knowledge, not just impressions or preconceptions.


The balance between what a client wants for an advertisement, and what an advertiser thinks will work, is always shifting. The brand wants safety, security, and sales – the ad agency wants attention, awareness, and acquisition. Bernbach again, says it best; “Dullness won’t sell your product, but neither will irrelevant brilliance.” This balance is the life and death of ads. Mostly the death.

Brand Adjective 

Most brands have ONE word that can focus the ad – Jeep is “tough” – Volvo is “safe” – It’s up to good copywriters to identify that adjective for their brand, and let that inspire the ad. Find your adjective!

Simple = Good

Brevity is the only solution to cut through the clutter of ads. How Draconian and stark can the copy be? One goal – don’t make an ad that adds to the clutter. Good advertising is density of content and elegance of form.  

What’s In It For Me?

No matter how creative your ad is, it still has to answer the one question on everyone’s mind, all the time – “what’s in it for me?” Understanding the context and lives of your target audience can help you make an ad that breaks through the clutter.

Avoid Inauthenticity 

Avoid these things – Puffery, Vanity, Authority, Insincerity, Gimmickry – to create an ad that has rapport. Maybe find a weakness, admit it, share it – this can lend believability to things you say afterward. “Hertz is 2nd best” “It’s ugly, but it’ll get you there” “Tastes horrible; works” 

Brand Context 

Great advertising finds the truth about a brand. Not what the brand thinks about itself, but what the CUSTOMERS think of the brand, how the brand fits into their lives.

The above headline could have easily been brand focused –
“We’re proud of our various floral arrangements – there’s one for every budget!”

But this ad is about the customer, and how the brand fits into their lives.

Go for an absolute

When writing an ad, don’t go for half measures. If you want to say “quicker, faster, and quieter” – SAY – “quickest, fastest, and quietest” – all claims in the middle are forgettable.

Wit Invites Participation

An idea that happens in the mind, stays in the mind. When ads use metaphors or jokes or “wink-wink” moments,  the connection happens inside the target’s head. Once that click happens, a smile in the mind occurs. Can you craft an ad that leaves room for the audience to finalize the connection? This will be effective!

“When baiting a trap with cheese, always leave room for the mouse.”


There is so much more to this book, but you should go out and buy it – Sullivan goes on to discuss ways digital advertising is different than traditional, why focus groups are crap, how to work with visuals. Anyone interested in marketing, advertisng, or consumer behavior will love this book. It’s like your uncle is sitting you down and rapping about advertising before you go off for a summer internship.

Advertising can be powerful and can shape communities and societies – for those that want to do good work in the field of advertising, this book is essential.

I’ll close with this inspirational quote – “Instead of coming up with advertising ideas, come up with ideas worth advertising.”

BUY THIS BOOK –> https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AVKWLCS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

GET THE BOOK –> Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads

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