This is how ITV, VegPower and Adam&EveDDB convinced UK kids to eat their greens

Adam&EveDDB won the Best Video category at The Drum Social Purpose Awards 2019 for its ‘Eat Them to Defeat Them’ campaign for ITV and VegPower. Here, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful campaign.

The challenge

As a nation we are eating less vegetables than we did in the 1970s. But it’s among children that the problem is particularly acute. Only 1 in 5 primary school aged children eats enough vegetables (Food Foundation 2016). Years of ‘eat your greens’ messages haven’t worked - putting the health and wellbeing of the nation’s children at stake.

As part of ITV’s work to champion better health for everyone, ITV and Veg Power, (a campaigning group for vegetables from the Food Foundation) joined forces to reverse this. Our ultimate goal was to get 25% of families who saw the ad to eat one more portion of veg a week.

The strategy

A key problem was veg were seen as the most boring thing on the plate. The age-old ‘vegetables are good for you’ messaging wasn’t fit for purpose. We needed a radical change of approach to convince the nation’s kids to think differently.

Research with children and child psychologists gave us the insight we needed. What if we levelled with children, and made veg bad, not good? Our strategy centred around not just confirming that vegetables were disliked but making vegetables the perfect villain. They were evil things coming to take over the world, and the only way to defeat them was to eat them.

We would measure the campaign’s success quantitatively through children’s attitudes and through analysing actual unit sales of vegetables.

The campaign

ITV donated £2 million of prime-time, family-focused airtime, and partnered with adam&eveDDB to create a 60-second spot, funded by a unique alliance of all 11 major supermarkets and Birdseye.

'Eat Them To Defeat Them' was the result, led by a commercial that was as entertaining as the finest Saturday night family shows, an eye-catching, high-energy action movie spoof.

We created a campaign that put kids in control, told them they were right all along and invited them to be the heroes. It encouraged play, made veg a source of enjoyment and it was totally surprising. It launched in Coronation Street and went on to show across ITV primetime.

The results

Kids loved the ad. Over two thirds of children said they liked or really liked the ad, and their parents did too.

What’s more, children’s attitudes changed. In a category which is incredibly hard to shift, 57% of children aged 6-11 said the ad made eating veg more fun, and 44% of children who had seen the ad said people were talking more about vegetables recently. 38% of children aged 6-14 said it made them want to eat more vegetables, as high as 45% among 6-8 year olds.

29% of children aged 6-14 who’d seen the ad said they’d actually eaten more vegetables as a result of seeing the ad, showing its incredible power, as high as 34% among 6-8 year olds. That’s the equivalent of 650,000 children eating more vegetables as a result of seeing the ad. (YouGov survey of 1148 children aged 6-14, April 2019)

Econometric analysis to identify the impact of the campaign on vegetable sales, over and above price, seasonality or other factors, found that Eat Them To Defeat Them had increased sales of vegetables by 2.3%, or 17.7 million units of vegetables. (PearlMetrics modelling June 2019, overseen by effectiveness expert Les Binet) That’s the equivalent of an extra portion of veg per week of every household with kids in the country - smashing our target.

"Getting our kids to eat more vegetables is simply vital - and it’s never been more so. This campaign is brave, fun and engaging. It will inspire kids to enjoy the huge range of tastes, textures and colours that the brilliant world of veg has to offer.“ - Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Social Purpose Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in next year's awards.

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