'Sweeter together': inside McVitie's bold £9.7m pivot from fuzzy kittens towards purpose

McVitie’s is to ditch its longstanding, and popular, ‘Sweeet’ campaign, exchanging fuzzy kittens and puppies for a £9.7m purpose-driven push launching under the strapline ‘Sweeter Together’.

Created by longstanding ad agency Grey, the snackmaker’s new UK proposition is pinned around the idea that in a society nose-down in smartphones, the simple act of sharing a biscuit has the power to bring people together.

Since 2014, the emotional resonance afforded by cuddly ads from McVitie's depicting CGI creatures such as tarsier monkey’s and alpacas popping out of its product packs has helped grow brand equity and boost sales.

However, Sarah Heynen, vice-president of marketing for UK and Ireland at the brand’s parent company Pladis, told The Drum it was the right time to move on.

“The surprise factor we had in the first couple of years of an animal sprouting from a pack has diminished over a period of time,” she said.

While McVitie's is sticking with a master brand strategy and will continue to bundle all its biscuits under one campaign, it is undoubtedly a bold move to pivot from a commercially successful, and much-loved platform.

The fresh ‘Sweeter Together’ drive kicks off with a 60-second animated spot called ‘Crane’, which tells the modern-day fable of Rod, a crane operator who works dozens of metres above the ground.

Every day, Rod is shown observing his colleagues below him enjoying the camaraderie of a tea break and biscuits. When his own waves and smiles go unnoticed his mood turns melancholy until he sees the steal beam he has lifted has been loaded with snacks and a cuppa courtesy of his workmates below.

The gesture instantly lifts his spirits, with the ad looking to show that 'sometimes the little things are actually the really big things'.

Heynen said the campaign stemmed from the insight that although biscuits seem trivial, they can be "extremely powerful" in bringing people together.

“We talk about our purpose enabling real human connection, the rationale behind that is that [in theory] we are more connected that we’ve ever been before – we have more digital friends, more ‘likes’ but real human connections are dwindling,” she added.

An appetite for purpose?

McVitie’s isn’t the only snack brand tapping into the trend for purpose-driven marketing. Before the turn of the year Cadbury’s unveiled a similar strategy with its ‘There’s a Glass and a Half in Everyone’ campaign, which also centres around everyday moments of generosity.

Other brands such as Unilever have backed up their purpose-based marketing drives with schemes like the Unstereotype Alliance. However, Heynen noted that although the latest campaign from McVitie's was informed by the realisation that there are growing concerns in a digital world, her brand is still trying to understand how to "underpin this sense of purpose going forward," be it through partnerships related to the cause or other initiatives.

Whether there is an appetite among McVitie's consumers for purpose-led marketing remains to be seen.

As per YouGov data, consumer perception of McVitie’s is already strong. Its impression score among consumers – which determines whether people have a positive or negative take on a brand – currently sits at the +40 mark, with the only higher brand in the snack category being Walkers at +42. In addition, 64% of its current customers said the brand’s current TV ads were attention-grabbing, with 70% saying its OOH was also striking.

Heynen says the animation element of the launch ad for 'Sweeter Together', which was created by director duo Smith and Foulkes through Nexus and scored by SoundTree's Peter Raeburn, helped further the message behind the ad.

She noted: "If it were a real-life spot it wouldn’t have that intensity of emotion. With animation, you can play with everything from the size of the eye, the glint in the eye and even the shape of the eyes to the shrug of the shoulder. It helps you get into a character."

The campaign will run on TV, social and in-store. Media was bought and planned through Wavemaker, with Live and Breathe working on the retail element.

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