The little ad that could

Where it's landed

Where it’s landed

U.K., mainland Europe, Australia, South Africa, the Philippines

Client: Unilever Canada

Mike Welling, former VP brand development, foods

Agency: Grey Worldwide, Vancouver

Marc Stoiber, CD

Shawn McLenny, copywriter

Shelley Weinreb, art director

The Slim-Fast story

‘The U.S. hated it,’ says Marc Stoiber, CD at Vancouver’s Grey Worldwide, of the very cheeky print work the agency did for Slim-Fast in 2000.

Fortunately, at a 2001 global Slim-Fast summit in Paris, regional reps from Australia, the U.K. and other European countries thought otherwise. ‘They said: ‘We should be running stuff like that,” he recalls. And the ads still have lots of life in them, having just popped up in the Philippines this year.

Targeted at pre-matrimonial-bliss females, the three iterations tossed

aside the pristine, idealized images of the perfect wedding and poked fun at the often-crazed desire of women to lose weight in time for their big day. And to much success: Sales improved for the older brand. And the ads, which ran in Canadian bridal magazines and displayed at bridal shows, caused such a furor that Stoiber says he heard stories of women actually stealing the posters.

‘We were considered heretics for running that ad,’ recalls Mike Welling, former VP brand development, foods at Unilever. ‘At the time there was a very defined, [product-focused] style that had been very successful in the States. The expectation was to copy things that had gone on there. But we found that [that approach] wasn’t working in the Canadian marketplace.’

The Canadian-born series was a surprise international hit, Welling says. And it’s even more surprising given no one was championing it. ‘It wasn’t something the [U.S.] wanted to see travel, but people are looking at that ad now and saying there was an insight and [it was] great creative. [It's making them look] at the brand in a different light.’