World’s best ads ever #14: The Cadbury drumming gorilla that almost never aired
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Cadbury rejected the ad that it’s now so often associated with. But that’s exactly what happened back in 2007.
To return to the start… the idea was originally conceived by famed Argentinian director Juan Cabral, who was chief creative officer at Cadbury’s then-ad agency Fallon London. He’s reported to have written the concept, without a client in mind, for the entire ad in one night after a chance conversation with colleagues about the greatest drum solo of all time – Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight, of course.
Shortly after this wave of inspiration, Cabral was given a brief by Phil Rumbol, at the time director of marketing at the chocolate maker. He wanted something for the Dairy Milk brand that would “show how eating Cadbury’s chocolate makes you feel good”.
Taking a chance that a drumming gorilla might do the job, Cabral pitched it. Rumbol loved it and commissioned it straight off the bat.
Within a month, Cabral had shot and edited the spot alongside Blink Productions.
Rumbol took it to his bosses for sign-off. “I was basically told: ‘You are never showing this ad’,” he revealed to The Guardian in a 2016 interview.
It was a tricky time for the brand. Less than a year before it had suffered mass criticism for salmonella exposure that it had failed to adequately disclose. Still reeling from the £20m product recall, the brand’s top execs thought an ad campaign that failed to even show the product wasn’t likely to help turn its fortunes around.
But Rumbol believed in it so much he persisted. And persisted. And persisted. Finally, four months later he was given the green light. It premiered during the Big Brother final in August 2007.
The British nation sat dumbstruck for 60 seconds as the camera panned the gorilla, deep in concentration as Collins sings the well-known chorus. The gorilla cracks its neck, lifts the sticks, and begins the solo. Exactly as Cabral had pictured in a hotel room months before.
It was an instant hit.
The brand’s sales shot up 10% and YouGov data from the time indicated brand perception increased 20%. It went on to win a plethora of awards, including the Film Grand Prix Lion at Cannes Lions 2008.