Lois and designer Kurt Weihs came up with the idea of inventing an imaginary creature - the Nauga. The idea was that Naugas shed their hide each year - and the result was Naugahyde, the leather-like material used to cover furniture.
The cute Nauga became the face of a TV and print campaign to promote Naugahyde. A distinctive mascot that made UniRoyal's product stand out from the mass of me-too synthetics. It gave a friendly face to a faceless product, and personality to something that originally sounded a quite dull and scientific.
The Nauga worked as a mascot and personality for the product, but also was great as a way of bringing to life practical features of the material.
UniRoyal's competitors may have had the same qualities and benefits as Naugahyde, and could have communicated them, but the way that they were brought to life by the Nauga was what separated them from the competition. People remembered that the Nauga was indestructible.
One of the cleverest things they did with the Nauga was to give away miniature ones with purchases of the furniture...
In effect the Nauga itself became another reason to seek out Naugahyde specifically. Just as importantly, it became the swing tag on the furniture and a sign on stores that stocked Naugahyde-covered products. The advertising told people to move on if they didn't see the smiling face of the Nauga on the store or the product.
Like a lot of Lois' best work, the print executions have a very editorial quality to them. And the beauty of of the Nauga idea is that it allows him to do that. As we know, people instinctively avoid what appears to be advertising, so slapping big logos all over everything more often has the opposite of the desired effect - people flick on past without reading. However, with the Nauga, the product is the star of every ad, which means the brand doesn't have to strain to be heard. There's no need for a giant Naugahyde logo slapped in the middle of proceedings. This in turn means the reader is more likely to be drawn in by Lois' bold editorial layouts.
The Nauga was an idea much bigger than an advertising execution. It is the perfect example of a truly great advertising idea - something that raises the product or brand way above it's competition across all possible places where the man-in-the-street could come across it.
Unfortunately, in these awards-obsessed times, a lot of advertising creatives have become more concerned with filling spaces, creating clever or entertaining ads, rather than taking a step back and creating great advertising ideas.
UniRoyal are still using the Nauga, over 40 years on, to promote Naugahyde. The original Naugas have become collectors items. And of course, most importantly, the Nuaga helped UniRoyal overwhelm its competitors and become market leader.
That's what we call Advertising Greatness.
More on buying the Nauga here.
*FOOTNOTE: The Nauga was nearly canned before it got chance to run, but was saved by research - albeit some very on-the-hoof research. The Federal Trade Commission in the US claimed the Nauga might be mistaken for a real-life species, and as such could be deemed deceptive advertising. To prove this was silliness, Lois and staff from his agency went down to Fifth Avenue in New York with the Nuaga advertising and asked passers-by "Is this a real animal?". Not suprisingly, the results showed that good old Joe Public had more sense than he/she was being credit for by the Commission, and the Nauga got to live.