Semper letteris mandate
When Kraft recently decided to re-brand Miracle Whip, they turned to McGarry Bowen (Chicago). The result is both compelling and bafflingly frustrating.
There are three elements to the campaign: the TV spot, the Facebook page, and the down-loadable app.
In the TV spot, groups of young people enjoy themselves in various activities, the jerky camera work signalling that we’re watching something authentic and, like, totally not corporate. The voice-over, spoken by a young male, is a manifesto against the forces of conformity and injustice. “We will not be quiet!” he says. “We will not blend in! We will not disappear in the background! We will not play second fiddle!” His words are echoed on screen in jittery, hand-drawn print (provided by The Wilderness) which further enforces both the sincerity and non-corporate nature of the ad. The tag line is proclaimed with all the conviction of old civil right’s marchers. “We are Miracle Whip!” says the young man. “And we will not tone it down!”
The civil rights/equal rights element is further reinforced by the strange, retro look of the actors and settings. The clothing, the hairstyles, the long-haired guy playing the guitar, all look as though they’d stepped through a time portal from the mid-seventies.The spot itself, of course, is titled Anthem.
The ad is visually compelling, and admittedly far superior to BBD’s creation last year showing an elderly woman whose mobility scooter suddenly goes into over-drive when she drops a bottle of Miracle Whip in her basket.
But as good as Anthem is in one respect, it’s cringe-inducing in another. “It’s mayonnaise!” we want to cry out. “It’s a bloody sandwich lubricant!”
Still, what are you going to do? If you market to youth, you’ve got to have ‘tude. At least that seems to be the prevailing belief among ad agencies, all of whom appear to have reached a collective agreement that every ad aimed at the under-24 group must feature no less than three shots of teens scowling at the camera. This holds true even when promoting amusement parks. Last year’s campaign for Canada’s Wonderland featured a group of sullen teens calling themselves the “Ride Warriors” who aggressively prowled the fairground like a gang looking for a victim to swarm. Turns out they just really liked riding roller coasters.
So I guess I’ve got to give Anthem that much: the actors don’t scare the crap out of me.
Hell, these days, that’s a plus.
Of course, advertising to youth is hopelessly outdated unless there’s also a viral, social-marketing side. The Miracle Whip Facebook page has 2,436 fans (at the time of this writing) — which, while considerably larger than my own 29 friends, seems far short of the millions and millions of people we keep being told are eager to engage in brand conversations. The Facebook wall hosts items about the world’s largest lobster roll, photos of Miracle Whip billboards from around the world, and recipe tips from the more sociable fans (“Have any of you MW lovers ever put a spoonful in a half of a canned pear and topped it with shredded cheddar????”) You can also view the TV ad which, since May 11, has received four comments.
Along with the video, Miracle Whip offers a new app called a Zingr which allows users to post short, Twitter-like comments on any web page. These comments can be seen by others using the app who can then add comments of their own.
Despite my own misgivings about the effectiveness of this campaign, other writers seem entranced by it. Lewis Lazare, the Chicago Sun-Times Media and Marketing columnist, gives it an A-. “[T]he commercial’s increasingly infectious energy cannot be ignored,” he says, and he praises the “jagged editing” as adding to the “refreshing sense that this is a campaign that hasn’t been drained of its intensity and spirit through the seemingly endless testing that often precedes new work from Kraft” (New Ads Build Enthusiasm for Miracle Whip, Chicago Sun-Times, May 18, 2009).
The social marketing aspect, of course, is ultimately irrelevant. As Chuck Nyren says, “I think you should toss most commercials on YouTube. Why not? (Comments: “Freakout“) ” But to believe that it’s adding anything significant to the campaign displays a curious naivety, and while the app may actually catch on (although my money is against it), it’s unlikely it will move a single bottle of Miracle Whip out of the stores.
Sill, I guess they deserve credit for at least trying to make Miracle Whip “edgy,” and “young,” and part of the “social conversation.” Ultimately, however, it’s still just a kind of mayonnaise and my suspicion is that the target audience is going to look at this campaign in much the same way teens look at any adult that commits the indefensible crime of trying to “get down” and talk their language.
I mean, seriously. It’s sandwich spread, dude!