So Cadbury’s have decided to bet the house brand on kindness.
A new commercial called ‘Mum’s Birthday’ appeared last month, featuring a little girl trying to buy her mum a bar of Dairy Milk with a collection of knick-knacks and trinkets.
The strategy is a bold move, because since 2007 Cadbury’s has been all about joy.
It started famously with that gorilla drumming to Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’. He was followed by children with dancing eyebrows, drag-racing airport trucks and office workers boogieing in their lumbar-support chairs.
In between, in 2012, there was a strange sojourn to a Wonka-esque place called Joyville. That was billed as a 10-year communications platform, but they must have meant 10 in binary, because by 2014 it had vanished.
But basically for the last decade we, as a nation, have been encouraged to ‘Free the Joy’. Sorry, #freethejoy.
Now it’s all change. Change of strategy, change of agency, change of ad.
The film itself, by VCCP, is charming (watch it here). Beautifully written, beautifully cast, beautifully shot.
The emotional twist comes when the girl puts her ‘money’ for the chocolate bar on the shop counter - a plastic coin, two buttons, what looks like a swimming gala medal, a pink ring and a clearly particularly-loved unicorn figurine.
The shopkeeper, on hearing the chocolate is for the girl’s mum who he can see outside, accepts the collection as payment but then returns the unicorn with a gentle “your change”.
The end-line is ‘there’s a glass and a half in everyone’. It’s kindness upon kindness.
There’s an interview with Darren Bailes of VCCP and Ben Wicks of Cadbury that explains the thinking behind the new campaign (watch it here).
On the one hand, they wanted to do something different to put some distance between the old and new campaigns, as Darren says, something “fresh”.
On the other, they were smart enough to go digging into the roots of the brand. What they found there was “a family brand, founded on the principles of generosity and kindness”.
So there’s a lot of talk about heart. A heart-warming ad, out of the goodness of his heart, putting the brand back at the heart of the nation. It’s all fair enough, this is Cadbury’s we’re talking about, after all.
But for Ben, the film isn’t just about the brand’s historical link with “making chocolate available for everyone to enjoy and share for generations”.
The bigger idea is about celebrating all sorts of acts of generosity and kindness that happen every day. So we are definitely in Purposeville here.
Ben even explains how well the idea works globally and locally. You have to say the campaign is everything an emotional marketing heart could dream of.
The only question I have is what’s the insight.
Is it really that everyone has a generous side to them? That sounds like a truth to me - and a debatable one at that.
Is it that acts of generosity create moments of connection? I get that Generosity is a need within the world of chocolate. It would be there on the Need Map, between Freedom and Bonding. I’d want to know how big it is before I targeted it, but the space exists.
I also get that one of the benefits of generosity is a feeling of connection. It’s there in the giving and receiving of any gift. John Lewis understand this pretty well.
But is identifying a need an insight?
It can be, of course, particularly if you then go on to own that need in people’s minds. But in general, insights need some kind of tension, something within a need to be resolved.
I’ve always felt that the real magic of the Gorilla ad wasn’t the explosion of exuberance when the drums finally kick in. It was the slightly sad look in his eye just beforehand.
After all, he’s been waiting for that moment all his life. And he’s a gorilla, in a sealed room. What happens when the track finishes, his glimpse of Freedom vanishes? I’m over-thinking it, I know, but still.
So what about this new campaign? Is the apparent lack of a genuine insight a weakness? Is that why the ad feels different for Cadbury’s, but not that different in overall terms?
My inclination is to give the strategy time. It’s a launch commercial, after all, for what is clearly a big new global communication platform. It’s also the first piece of work from a new client-agency relationship.
And for all I know they have an amazing insight, with all sorts of plans for putting it into action.
Because there is plenty of tension in Generosity, isn’t there? I mean, do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?