Breaking the candy mould

You've seen it before. The arbitrary 'nuts-and-nougat-dancing-in-a-veil-of-chocolate' candy bar ad. You'll probably see it again, too. But not from Strategy's Top Client in the packaged goods category, Cadbury Trebor Allan. Despite residing in a category that's not known for taking risks, Toronto-based Cadbury Canada is producing some of the most playful, attention-grabbing ads on television - and the company is reaping rich rewards for its bravery.

You’ve seen it before. The arbitrary ‘nuts-and-nougat-dancing-in-a-veil-of-chocolate’ candy bar ad. You’ll probably see it again, too. But not from Strategy’s Top Client in the packaged goods category, Cadbury Trebor Allan. Despite residing in a category that’s not known for taking risks, Toronto-based Cadbury Canada is producing some of the most playful, attention-grabbing ads on television – and the company is reaping rich rewards for its bravery.

Love it or hate it, Cadbury’s recent campaign for Crispy Crunch is getting the most buzz, thanks to nine TV spots that all start out the same, but then diverge to different, somewhat surreal, conclusions. The idea behind the multiple endings is to illustrate the confection’s promise that every bite of Crispy Crunch tastes a little bit different.

‘I think it’s a revolutionary concept. The spots are funny, quirky and the execution is excellent; I think they’ve taken a bold step forward to breaking the mould of traditional confectionery advertising,’ says Cosmo Campbell, associate CD at Palmer Jarvis DDB in Vancouver. ‘They should be commended, and hopefully it will change the industry’s perception.’

The basic format for all of the spots begins with a needle dropping onto a record which begins playing a bouncy background tune. Then a man walks into a High Fidelity-style record shop. He greets the clerk, asks for a bite of his candy bar (they prattle on about the taste being ‘crispy’ or ‘crunchy’) while a female customer (YTV host Sugar) in the background gleefully exclaims ‘Wicked!’ as she finds the record she was digging for.

But one version sees the man dressed in Scotsman apparel (complete with bagpipes, kilt and accent), while another involves spontaneous combustion, and yet another sees the actors replaced with marionettes.

‘At the end of the day, if we’re not a fun category, then what’s the point?’ asks Cadbury Trebor Allan’s director of marketing, John Bradley. ‘That was definitely a breakthrough campaign for Crispy Crunch. We wanted to reawaken people’s love affair with chocolate and try something fresh and fun at the same time.’

Developed by TBWAChiatDay in New York (the account’s senior planner, Carla Serrano, is Canadian and the creatives, Simon McCoy and Richard Overall, are Australian), the goal of the campaign was to power through the clutter and make Crispy Crunch top of mind with the fickle chocolate-buying public.

‘We’re not selling dish soap here. Chocolate bars are impulse buys and TBWA helped us devise a way to get people to make that three-second decision to buy a Crispy Crunch or a Caramilk [also by Cadbury] because the ads are so great,’ Bradley explains.

That was the plan, but did it work? The sales results say yes. The new campaigns ran early spring to mid-summer and Bradley says Cadbury has seen total sales increase by a formidable 8% since January, as measured by ACNielsen.

Together, Bradley and TBWA developed the core idea that Crispy Crunch’s distinguishing characteristic was the fact that each bite tasted just a little bit different, and that in turn evolved into the concept of a campaign where each spot looked just a little bit different.

‘We asked ourselves ‘What would trigger an impulse purchase?’ It had to be funny and appropriate,’ explains TBWA’s Serrano. ‘The idea was quite logical if you think about it, but the clothes it was wearing was humour. Logistics, like how different the spots were from each other, was the hardest part.’

The brainstorming sessions yielded well over 40 different variations of the original record shop concept, and these were paired down to 11 executions, nine of which have aired.

The Scotsman spot for example, was totally improvised. Originally, the main character was to first appear as a Scotsman, then after a cut to the ‘Wicked!’ girl, appear in his regular T-shirt and jeans. But once the lead put the costume on and broke out his accent, McCoy says, ‘he was just too hilarious to pass up,’ so he stayed in the Scotsman persona for the rest of the spot.

While the Crispy Crunch campaign was designed from the get-go as a headline-grabber, other campaigns for Caramilk and Dairy Milk were designed more with a brand character refresher in mind.

For instance, three new Caramilk spots that ran in May stuck to the perennial ‘Caramilk Secret’ platform, but with a slight twist. The campaign was based on the idea that a man has finally discovered the secret, but every time he tries to spill the beans, he’s prevented by very suspicious circumstances. For instance, one spot has the whistle-blower almost crushed by a falling L from the Caramilk sign above him, and another has him run over by a flock of scampering swine.

‘Caramilk is a 33-year-old brand, but it’s become kind of like wallpaper after awhile; it’s become passive in terms of how the customer views it,’ Bradley says. ‘Managing a long-term brand like that can make you complacent and you almost become a parody of yourself if you don’t shake it up.’

And shake it up they did. For Bradley, all that had to be done was to change the perspective of the longstanding campaign away from the ‘What is the secret?’ approach to ‘What would happen if someone found out?’

‘We applied the same principles we used in the Crispy Crunch ads,’ Serrano says. ‘We wanted to engage the viewer and have a laugh, but we didn’t want to be too prescriptive. Besides, it’s the biggest Canadian candy bar icon, so you couldn’t walk away from The Secret – all we did was add a contemporary twist.’

‘You don’t win in today’s market by doing what you did yesterday,’ Bradley says. ‘I think the challenge today is about taking controlled risks. Let’s face it, everyone likes chocolate and everyone likes candy so why don’t we make the ad a little more edgy and a little more fun?’