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How Strong Copy Makes Us Believe the Impossible

John Goodman Fisher Price commercial

When advertising geeks tell everyone at the Super Bowl party to be quiet during the commercials, it’s because the key to a great TV spot during that coveted few hours is often a powerful voiceover. Clients that spring for multi-million-dollar ad buys are rewarded with precious airtime to tell a more complete story — and some of the most memorable and enduring commercials have used at least 60 seconds to communicate their message.

Still, those types of milestone campaigns usually remain a closely guarded secret until that Sunday in February. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised to see — in September — the new Fisher-Price “Let’s Be Kids” commercial featuring John Goodman. While there are shorter cuts for TV, it’s the full-length 60-second spot that really works its magic — and it all starts with one of the best pieces of copywriting I’ve seen or heard all year.

The spot begins with Goodman walking out of Farmer Jed’s house into an imaginary world of classic Fisher-Price toys. “You lived here once,” he says. “It was the happiest you’d ever been.”

The eye-popping effect of the commercial is not unlike Dorothy taking her first Technicolor steps into Munchkinland. It’s visually arresting, even a little confusing, how all these random toys come together in such a dream-like sequence.

As Goodman continues his stroll, he passes by more Fisher-Price mainstays from my own childhood, including the iconic Bubble Mower® and the colorful Rock-a-Stack®. Goodman helps you recall how “there was rhyme and reason… all the time” and how “you were feeling fine” — but then you moved on.

“You had to,” says Goodman as the copy takes its first major turn. Just a few seconds in, the adventure feels like it’s already over. Goodman goes on to describe that dreaded reality — growing up — and how it’s a place where “opinions are loud and clocks are the boss” and (gasp) “you have to wear shoes all the time.”

After that dose of hard reality, our ear is waiting for that one word that will make those fun, happy times still possible: “But.”

Right on cue, Goodman takes the hand of a young girl and delivers us all back to our youth. “But you can always come back — this time with someone smaller,” he says. “Someone who will teach you things you never knew you forgot.”

It’s a brilliant hook. While acknowledging that we’ll never be able to fully recapture our youth, Goodman and Fisher-Price offer us the next best thing: reliving the best parts of our childhood with the next generation and relearning the simple joys of sharing, dreaming and, yes, having fun.

Whether it’s with our own kids, our nieces and nephews, or our friends’ children, the message is clear, simple and powerful: it’s time to put down the smartphone and pick up the Chatter Telephone® on wheels.

The ad closes with Goodman’s make-believe phone call informing him that “I guess we’re going flying.” As the plane taxis and takes off across Fisher-Price’s legendary colorful xylophone, Goodman invites you along with a closing message that feels like the truest thing you’ve heard all day:

“Because here, we could all be kids — and if you don’t remember how, don’t worry. You’ll find your way again — because everything’s exactly how you left it.”

Great copy does more than sell. It inspires us to consider the world differently. With Goodman’s perfect-pitch performance and a few stretches of the imagination, Fisher-Price’s copy is a road map back to our childhood — a place only reachable by Adventure Series Safari Jeep® (lion and zebra sold separately).

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