Smash Mash Martians: how would today's marketers reimagine this classic ad campaign?


By Justin Pearse, Managing Director, The Drum Works

March 22, 2016 | 7 min read

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The Reimagining Advertising campaign, created in partnership with GumGum, is asking a panel of ten marketers how they would reimagine seminal ads from the pre-digital age to find out how today’s leading advertising thinkers would reinvent them with the current digital tools at their disposal.

In the second in the series, Nicole Yershon, director, innovative solutions, Ogilvy Group Advertising; Caspar Schlickum, CEO, EMEA, Xaxis; and Gav Thompson, CMO Paddy Power, reimagine Smash Mash Martians.

Smash instant mashed potatoes enjoyed moderate success when Cadbury, its parent company, started looking for a way to reinvigorate sales. In 1974, the brand engaged Boase Massimi Pollitt, whose campaign, “For Mash Get Smashed” did the trick. The ads featured a family of robots, made entirely from car parts, who laughed at the way silly humans mashed their potatoes the traditional way instead of opening a box of Smash.

The ads, which ran from the 1970s into the early 1980s, were voted the second best television ad of all time in a 2000 poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4.

The robots, created by puppeteers out of car parts, were so iconic that some of them are now on display at The National Media Museum in Bradform, West Yorkshire.

How would our panelists reimagine these iconic ads?

Feed the World: Nicole Yershon, director, innovative solutions, Ogilvy Group Advertising

Creating a new set of Martians isn’t necessarily interesting to me. It would cost a lot of money, and even more -- millions really -- to purchase air time for the adverts. Will that really speak to people? Will that motivate them to go out and buy Smash Mash?

I think a lot of people are more interested in tackling the world’s problems, and are willing to support companies that are like-minded. So rather than reimagine the Martians, I’d focus on creating a program where a portion of Smash Mash sales is earmarked for hunger-relief programs in areas of the world that are struggling with malnourishment and hunger.

To take it up a notch, we can create -- or partner with -- programs that are working to relieve hunger in a variety of ways, and encourage volunteerism. We could create a multi-platform Smash Mash Feed the World presence in social media, where volunteers can share their experiences, and encourage others.

Smashable Units: Gav Thompson, CMO, Paddy Power

This is a campaign I’d take it to an extreme. First off, I’d make each Martian an individual character with a distinct personality, supported with all of the vehicles that let people get to know them – Twitter feeds, Facebook Pages, and so on.

We know from the first campaign that the Martians are pretty impatient. They had no tolerance for the time it takes to peel, boil and mash potatoes. So I’d take that impatience to the extreme.

I’d create a series of videos of the Martians creating smashed up versions of things, such as a 15-second version of Macbeth, and famous novels and movies. So smash becomes synonymous with extremely-condensed and quick. First we’d see them smashing something, and then we’d see the results (e.g. Witches tell Macbeth he’ll be king of Scotland. They lied.”)

To get people involved, I’d invite them to smash up any food. I expect we’d get videos of people making a turkey dinner in 20 seconds by doing things like putting all the ingredients in a liquidizer, or running a steamroller over them. We could create a competition, which would go viral, of the best smashed meal.

Let the data tell the story: Caspar Schlickum, CEO, EMEA, Xaxis

The original ads already feel like an execution that’s close to what I might do today, which is a lot of short films. They already feel quite viral – short, snappy, kind of funny, a bit ridiculous.

I’d use real-time data to build scenarios for these ads. If something significant happens in the world, the Martians will comment on or ridicule the event, whichever is most appropriate. We’d still show them laughing at the stupidity of humanity.

The data itself can drive the story. For instance, we could use real-time data that comes from the NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover. In September 2015, NASA reported that the Rover was planning for “an active winter” in which it would explore Mars’s Marathon Valley. We can show the Smash Martians laughing at humanity’s rudimentary techniques for map making or getting their winter coats out of storage.

With programmatic, we can take over the internet, meaning we can purchase every available impression at a given time. We can use an anticipated event, such as the Perseid Meteor Shower, as opportunities for the Martians to comment (“Silly humans, they thinks this is a significant shower”).

Another idea is to tie the campaign to the weather, so when a specific weather event occurs, such as severe lightening, it serves as a signal to start buying up impressions.

The first time around, people began to imitate the Martians’ laugh. That could lend itself very well to Snapchat, where users can create photos where they laugh like the Martians.

If you get smashed, get Smash: Ben Plomion, SVP Marketing, GumGum

The word 'smash' has so many connotations these days. Moreover, the market for Smash Mash has probably changed. Most mums today will be hesitant to serve instant mashed potatoes to their kids. They prefer fresh foods they can trust.

I’d gear this campaign to young men living on their own, and looking for quick and easy ways to fill up their bellies after a hard night of getting smashed. The Martians, snarky as always, can be seen the night before egging them on to do one more shot, and then the next morning offering a quick and easy fix for the hangover (“Sorry dude, here, have some Smash.”)

If we really wanted to be provocative, we could target images of spirits, beer and parties, with Martians talking about how silly humans are for not preparing for the next day.

I’d also add a mobile component to reach people in areas where there are a lot of pubs and bars. The messages would remind people to pick up some Smash Mash.

We can even distribute samples of Smash Mash at bars. This campaign would lend itself to a social media component. I could imagine Vines with people sharing the best way to cure a hangover using Smash, like adding Alka Seltzer to the mix.

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