An old formula that still works in new media.

When you think about Problem-Solution advertising, you can’t help but remember all the old Proctor & Gamble spots where they show you how to get out the really tough stains like grass, mud, and blood. You know, in case you’re a serial killer who falls down a lot.

Or there were gems like this Bayer spot from 1989 where Robert Urich doesn’t get “baby headaches,” he gets “full grown adult-sized bangaroos.” I guess it’s like a kangaroo with a hammer or something. Not sure. But only Bayer can slay this marsupial thunder from down under.

Point is, no one would be sharing any of that crap on Facebook or Twitter, nor are they stopping to watch it in pre-roll. I mean maybe, just maybe, if you can find a celebrity today with the stopping power of Robert Urich, you might get them for a few seconds; but as soon as he/she says “bangaroos,” your audience will be out.

Still Problem-Solution advertising is by no means dead, nor should it be. It just has to try a bit harder. You have to find that thing that either surprises someone so intensely or that they relate to so deeply that they can’t help but embrace and share it with their peers. That is how this classic formula can still help grow a brand’s Share of Culture.

A great example of this is the Squatty Potty. It helps you poop. And no one wants to see that. Well some do, but they’re weird. So what did Squatty Potty do? They made a commercial with a unicorn who drops rainbow-colored soft serve. At first he struggles (problem) and then Squatty Potty eases his toilet torture (solution). That nearly three minute long video has been watched 135,000,000 times on Facebook and another 32 million on YouTube. On Facebook alone, it has been shared 1.6 million times.

But let’s say you have something a bit less juvenile than potty humor, like email. The communication doesn’t have to be boring. And you can even make it shareable. For the Outlook app, we delved into the many ways that the email app on the iPhone can let you down leading to disastrous repercussions for your career – the type of things you’d never have to face again with the Outlook app.

We also made a series of GIFs that let you commiserate with others about all those moments. During the campaign, the Outlook app was the most downloaded productivity app on the iPhone and in the top 10 for downloads overall. (It’s really good. You should use it.)

When you think about it, the problem-solution format is all over social media; it just goes by the name of hacks. There are countless videos showing you how to solve common problems “the easy way.” For instance, the video below shows 7 “easy ways” to spruce up your bathroom. The production value isn’t good and the music is even worse, but the video has been watched more than 120,000,000 times and shared more than 2 million times.

Problem-solution advertising gives you a great way to talk about your product with an extremely clear benefit. And while it was born with the dinosaurs of advertising, it can evolve to survive. You just have to be open to making the everyday problem into something that’s extraordinary.

For fun, check out Jaboody Dubs who takes problem-solution DR ads and overdubs them. The results are infinitely better.