Pity the poor ad man held hostage to a 600lb gorilla. Worse, imagine your most famous ad flouts every marketing principle you hold dear. Welcome to Cadbury’s.
Cadbury's wish to own the concept of ‘joy’, in the same way Coca Cola own ‘happiness’ and McDonalds own a combination of family ‘love’ and teenage coolness. Big brand marketers prefer to sell an emotion than worry about the calorific contents of the products.
So ‘joy’ it is then, plucked from a semiotics focus group as being the most consumer-friendly description of what you feel after devouring a bar or two of their latest offerings. (‘Bloated’ and ‘guilty’ might be two others, but unsurprisingly they never made it onto the whiteboard.)
But then it gets tricky. From an advertising point of view, depicting ‘joy’ in a compelling and insightful way is not as easy as it sounds. Even the most basic associations with the word quickly bring up both sex and religion, and we don't want to go there, so we come to more whimsical pursuits such as the joy of watching a toddler take its first steps or the joyful tears of an airport reunion. Hmmm. Not exactly riveting stuff, particularly since we know (but can’t admit) that attention-deprived, hormonally-driven teenagers are a large part of our target demographic. Music! Yes, music can definitely be a joyful experience, but one person’s music is another's muzak.
More importantly, how do you show joy and chocolate in tandem without showing people gorging themselves on the stuff? For several years, the answer in Australia was to show a world where everything was made of chocolate, including the people, all set to a catchy Beach Boys tune. Irritatingly tedious, the only joy to be had watching the ads was imagining the awkward conversations between animators and clients as they decided whether it was PC or not to have blond-haired kiddies with chocolate coloured skin.
After a series of international PR disasters that included salmonella poisoning and treasure hunts in graveyards, Cadbury's in 2007 were desperate to try anything to halt the decline in sales. Top UK creative agency Fallon convinced them that you couldn't rationally depict ‘joy’, you had to simply feel it in the ad. Emotionally. This goes against the grain of everything marketers are taught to believe in. Showing how desperate they must have been, Cadbury’s marketing team tore up the FMCG handbook and let Fallon creative director Juan Cabral (creator of Sony’s famous ‘Balls’ ad) go crazy.
Picking the precise moment Phil Collins’ drum solo comes crashing in midway through ‘In The Air Tonight’ may not be everyone's idea of joy, but it worked for me. And for millions of others, who eagerly downloaded the ad off YouTube, enjoyed the same thrill, empathized with the earnest ape and got caught up in the hype. Was the gorilla real? (No.) Was it Phil Collins in a gorilla suit? (No.) Over the ensuing months, sales apparently picked up by a healthy 9%. The ad won the Grand Prix at Cannes.
Cabral continued his creative revolution with a freakish ad that still resonates (certainly with my teen) as a firm favourite; the two kids with the dancing eyebrows. Traditional marketers were baffled.
Meanwhile in Cadbury’s marketing corridors, it is now clear, the counter-revolution was gathering pace. Where’s the reason to believe? Where’s the product shot? Where’s the consumer benefit? Usage? The insight? Disappointingly, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney (in partnership with Fallon) have gone straight back to marketing 101, with a new campaign that ticks all the right boxes, oozes focus group approval, and is devoid of any spark of charm or originality.
Airily dismissing the Gorilla on his back as “a one off execution,” local marketing manager Ben Wicks launched his new campaign claiming it’s “a bigger idea than ever before.” Proud of its similarity to the 'Wouldn't it be nice' positioning, he boasts it’s an “holistic idea that will survive for many years.” Somehow I doubt it. Called “Welcome to Joyville”, it’s a weak copy in concept and execution of Coke’s “Happiness Factory” combined with dollops of Willy Wonka. “We are creating magic,” claims Wicks, serving up the tale of a fantasy factory, powered by carousels but no kids (musn’t encourage obesity), grumpy old men in flying machines and grinning purple Oompa Loompa rip-offs. ‘Joy’, we learn, is “the secret ingredient.” Perhaps, but it needs wit and humour to spice it up. It’s a familiar idea that was done more engagingly by Coke, Triple M, Intralot, and Hahn Super Dry.
Last November, Saatchi’s freshly installed team of CEO Michael Rebelo and ECD Damon Stapleton promised the "most audacious and progressive" creative work in Australia, words that happen to describe ‘Gorilla.’ Instead, they’ve given us a viewing experience that is – ironically – joyless.