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How Oreo is making its marketing more playful to win over British biscuit lovers

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By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

February 16, 2022 | 5 min read

Despite satisfying America’s sweet tooth for over a century, you’d have been hard pushed to find an Oreo in the UK prior to 2008. By 2020, however, it ranked 16th in a list of the nation’s favorite biscuits. The Drum catches up with the cookie brand and its partner Digitas to find out more about recent marketing activations and its strategy for growth.

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Oreo x The Batman collaboration recently enticed cookie lovers

To the delight of snackers and DC Comics fans alike, two American icons recently collided in Oreo x The Batman. “It’s such a dream project,” says James Whatley of Digitas UK, which has led the strategy while working alongside brand owner Mondelez and the creatives at Saatchi & Saatchi Dusseldorf.

The early brief was simple, the outcome had to be fun and relevant, and Whatley says initial concept meetings led to the team asking: “What if we made the Batman trailer or elements of the Batman universe from Oreo cookies?“

Creating a campaign that resonated with British consumers was key. Oreo’s senior brand manager Rafael Espesani says: “Oreo is a black and white cookie, which already helps it to stand out among traditional heritage biscuits brands in the UK. Our product is core to our brand mission around sparking playfulness; our sandwich cookie, two chocolatey biscuits filled with creme inside, almost begs to be played with.”

The recent 3D out-of-home (OOH) activation positioned up and down the UK certainly garnered the attention of passersby and was shared widely across social media platforms – as good OOH ads often are.

“We are talking about 96-sheet billboards, the largest standard advertising poster format size available in the UK, installed in five different locations across the nation… this is truly unmissable and authentically Oreo,” says Espesani.

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Of course, the reaction to the partnership is even sweeter as it had been put on hold in 2021 due to production on The Batman movie being paused in light of Covid-19. Pandemic delays were something that the team were used to.

Back in March 2020, they were in a pre-production meeting when the UK lockdown was first announced. “The following day, we killed a whole campaign and had to present something else,” says Whatley, noting that the global team at Mondelez hinted it was “not the time for back pocket ideas”.

“We went to the client and said: ’Look, we think we should do something, and we don’t think it should be boring.’” Whatley says the tried and tested concept of ‘we’re all in this together’ just wasn’t going to cut it for Oreo.

The team had commissioned research into what playfulness meant to Brits in light of the ever-changing circumstances.

“There’s this wonderful piece of spoken word that we found that unlocked the research, which was something like: ’The thing with us Brits is that when we’re faced with shit we just take the piss out of it,’” jokes Whatley.

“We’re Oreo, we’re a family brand,“ he says. “We can’t just go out and take the piss – that’s not a positioning we can take. However, we wanted to celebrate this network of playfulness that was unlocked in UK.”

Tapping into the mood of the nation and producing interesting collaborations layered with that much-loved British humor is working well for the brand.

Whatley admits, though, that building relevance between an Oreo cookie and the UK consumer is “bloody hard“ (even if the Brits are a nation of biscuit lovers). But, he says, they are “getting there“ and finding its right place, while creatively the team is having a blast doing it. American culture is something that Brits have long taken an interest in and, as Whatley concludes: “You can’t watch any US pop culture without seeing Oreos – they turn up in everything from Friends to The Shining.”

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