Gorillas, milk and airports: Cadbury’s communication strategy

I'm intrigued by the comms. strategy of Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) over the last 12 months. They've separated their sausage (product) and sizzle (emotional) messages, using different media channels for each. And each of these parts of the campaign poses some interesting questions. We'll look at the sizzle campaign today. And then the sausage bit in the next post.

1. Sizzle – That advert: sponsored entertainment, or business building campaign?
The emotional component of CDM is, of course, the bloody drumming gorilla. Just in case you've been on a dessert island (with no wireless access) for the last year, the gorilla in question sniffs the air in anticipation before bursting into a an explosion of drumming, to the sounds of "In the air tonight" by Genesis. You can watch it here, or click below:

Picture 2

When it came out this ad struck me as a classic example of "sponsored entertainment": very entertaining and watchable, but with no product story. The brand appears at the end as the sponsor, rather than the star of the ad. Indeed, the ad even uses the title "A glass and half full production" (a token mention of the nice product truth of each bar having a glass and a half of milk in it.)

Let's look at 5 ways of assessing the effectiveness of the ad:

a) Viral power: no doubting the potency of the ad as a piece of viral marketing. It got 10 million views on You Tube alone. There are 3,386 comments on You Tube. Impressive stuff. And 70 000 people signed up to Facebook Gorilla Groups (some people really do have too much time on their hands….)

b) Brand equity: this is fascinating. Really. At first or even second viewing you don't get much info on the product. You might not even recall the brandname. But the media hoo-ha was so big that this helped explain the ad to the general public! So, I now understand that the Gorilla's drumming is supposed to be "a visual metaphor for the joy of eating a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk".

c) Sales growth: I would love to see some evidence that proves the ad is really responsible for the increased sales of CDM, which is the PR story from Cadbury: 'Dairy Milk sales in the UK were up in the "low double digits" in the wake of the drumming
gorilla advertisements, according to the company's advisers.' This makes a great soundbite, but people in the choc business tell me it has a lot to do with pricing and promotion.

d) Employer branding: no-one talks about this aspect of the Gorilla ad. But I think it has done a lot for the image of Cadbury as a place to work. It has made the company seem more innovative and cutting edge. The CEO, Todd Stitzer even hailed 2007 as "the year of the gorilla". It also did a lot to boost the image of agency Fallon, and the young creative hot-shot behind the ad, Juan Cabral.

e) Campaignability: the last issue is perhaps the most interesting. Was Gorilla a one-hit wonder? Or the start of a big campaign?

The second ad is called "Truck". It also used a 70's/80's track, this time Don't Stop me Now by Queen. This time we have a series of airport vehicles racing down the runway; they look like the trucks from the movie Cars. The agency had a ball. After the super simple Gorilla ad, now we had "a six-night shoot at an airport in Mexico with 140 crew, two 35mm
film cameras, two high-definition cameras and one crash-cam." You can see it here, or click below if you are on the blog:

The new ad is much less effective in viral terms, with less than
200,000 You Tube views when I looked. It is more complex, but less
effective at getting across the joy of anticipation and tasting of the
chocolate. Its less memorable. Here are some of the quotes from the Guardian blog that asked for opinions: "It's all flash and cash."; "This feels like a bit of a misfire"; "A complete flop"; "Nice ad, but I have absolutely no idea what it's supposed to have to do with Cadbury's."

The problem is that because the ad is less viral, it has less impact, and also gets less support from the media to explain what the bloody hell its all about. This suggests that the Gorilla ad was a one-off. In fact, the
Gorilla WAS the idea: the execution was bigger than the brand.

The Cadbury marketing director, Philip Rumbol, told the MediaGuardian section that "We could have created Gorilla 2 and had him playing a trumpet. But that would have been too linear. It has to have a slightly enigmatic quality." But perhaps Gorilla 2 is the only way to go if the idea is to be more than a one-hit wonder?

Check in next time to read about the sausage part of the campaign.