Sorry to return to Cadbury’s again, but it is a perfect example of one of my very favourite themes – that developing great and long-running campaigns requires, first and foremost, that youÂ create a “world” within which the campaign operates, and which is governed by a strict set of rules.
This world-creation business is harder than it looks, and when things go wrong after a good start it’s usually either because there were gaps and flaws in the rules to begin with, or because people responsible for the faulty executions broke or ignored one or more of the rules.
Some campaigns’ rules seem very clear and simple.Â Take Heineken’s legendary (although now very long-ago) “refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach” campaign.Â TheÂ apparent rules are straightforward enough:Â take a scene from popular culture in which someone can’t do something;Â give them some Heineken;Â find that they can now do the something.Â Â (There is in fact an invisible Heineken rule, which IÂ noticed years ago when using the campaign in classes on copywriting:Â there must always be an element of surprise in the resolution of every ad.Â If you could see exactly how the situation was going to resolve itself right from the first frame of the commercial, then the ad would be predictable and dull.)
These days, campaign rules are often much looser, concentrating not on a rigid structure to be maintained throughout the campaign, but on much more qualitative elements – a tone of voice, a look and feel, a level of engagement and some style guidelines.Â It’s difficult to say, for example, exactly what makes a VW commercial a VW commercial, but something does, and indeed has done for the best part of 20 years.
The moment when you come up against the need for rules, of course, is when you come to write the second execution.Â What is it that you should retain from the first execution?Â And what is it that should be new?
If you haven’t thought about it in advance, these can be hard questions:Â and it’s here that the Cadbury’s campaign has gone horribly wrong.
One thing was obvious:Â to be part of the same campaign at all, the second film had to carry forward the “glass and a half of joy” theme.Â But how to dramatise the idea?Â What do you take with you, and what do you leave behind?Â The shopping-list was a long one:Â the gorilla;Â the sudden change of mood from mournfulness to joy;Â the emotional involvementÂ that viewers feel at this change of mood;Â the unexpectedness and surprise of a gorilla playing the drums; the world-class “magic moment” when the drums come in;Â the famous 80s music track;Â the stripped-down, low-cost production values;Â and the very long time-length, giving the story lots of room to breathe.
The new commercial has a famous 80s music track and is very long, but otherwise it doesn’t really carry forward any of the things we loved about the first film.Â There’s no gorilla, and the production values are stratospherically high.Â But much more importantly, there’s very little surprise in the situation, or at least not for anyone who has seen Pixar’s Cars;Â there’s no “magic moment”;Â there’s a hugely much more muted and less sudden change of mood;Â and most important of all, we feel little or no emotional involvement with the trucks, although the little one is vaguely cute.
Looking at the short list of similarities, and the long list of differences, it’s pretty obvious that the new film isn’t likely to engage in anything like the same way as the old one – and in fact, it doesn’t really engage in any way at all.
I suspect that the agency will get one more chance to put the campaign back on track – and I’m sure that in trying to do so, they’ll think rather differently about how to define the rules of their campaign.