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By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

April 8, 2024 | 8 min read

After 10 years in the wilderness, the anthropomorphized sausage stick makes his dramatic return in true cheeky fashion.

Growing up in 90s Britain, no other brand mascot had quite an anarchistic or dominating aura as Peperami’s Animal. His commanding presence in ads saw him grating his own head off in one spot and becoming enraged at the sight of a potato chip in another. The meaty monster either had you laughing or absolutely terrified. Regardless, he had your attention and the tagline, ‘It’s a bit of an Animal,’ fitted the wild creation perfectly.

Created by London shop Lowe (now MullenLowe), the character continued to be a formidable asset to the brand until 2014, when Jack Links bought Peperami from Unilever.

According to inside sources, during the last decade, Animal had reluctantly retreated to his wilderness habitat, patiently waiting for the day when he could make his rambunctious return.

When The Drum exclusively catches up with him, he tells us: “It has been a long time. People change. The world changes. Things move on. Maybe I’m more mature. Better for my lived experiences…wrong. Jog on. I haven’t changed one bit. Oh, wait? I’m just tastier!”

Animal continues: “Look at this face. It’s made for telly! But I’m on more than your Gogglebox, sunshine! My gorgeous mug will be all over everything. I’m on your phone. I’m in your earbuds. I’ll be living right in your head alllll daaaaay loooong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Ego aside, it’s good news for the animated meat snack because, according to research conducted by the brand, Animal still has a place in the modern world and is firmly embedded in the memories of 81% of adults in the UK. Emily Prince, who took up the position of head of brand 18 months ago, says that it didn’t take as much convincing as she initially thought to reinvigorate the icon.

“He’s a very important brand asset and brings a lot of fun,” she says. “People love him. I was very clear that I wanted to bring him back.”

The brief to its newly appointed creative agency, Fearless Union, was to craft relevance for Peperami and push the boundaries with its advertising once again.

Crucially, the creative team had to bring Animal back in his full glory and not as a watered-down version because he has attributes that many people admire, albeit they are extremely heightened attributes. He’s daring, passionate and doesn’t care what people think of him.

According to the marketer, that’s part of what people love about the cheeky character. He brings an undeniable bit of fun to the brand, which makes it especially clever to revive him now when trends in advertising show people loving humor and nostalgic elements more than ever.

Mark Campion, who is the creative director at Fearless Union, says the task of bringing back the brand mascot was one that many creatives would relish but points out that there were a few challenges along the way. “How do you handle Animal? How do you use his passion, energy and cheekiness to talk to adults?”

Familiarity is a powerful element of the Peperami brand toolkit and the team knows how famous Animal is. Nostalgia within marketing is engaging and emotionally compelling, even if Animal can be a bit startling at times. It’s all about connecting with consumers, it’s about consistency, too, adds Prince, and not always needing to try out new things.

Campion jokes that the mascot “works on his own time” and can be a bit of a diva but that he always gets the job done well.

During the filming of the new TV spot, the team continued the tradition of using stop-motion techniques that the ads were celebrated for in the beginning. Of course, with the meticulous nature of stop-motion, the whole process was extremely time-consuming and detail-oriented. Campion and his team had to diligently study Animal’s aesthetic from the original ads and craft not one but four puppets. Animal has stunt doubles, you see, just in case he gets a little tired or restless during long shoots.

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“It was a real labor of love,” adds the creative director. “You’re doing maybe one frame or maybe two seconds of footage in a day, for instance.” That’s because every single gesture that Animal makes, from the way his shoelaces move to the frequency that his eyes blink, is filmed and stitched together in the edit. It’s what makes the difference; when people watch it, they can appreciate the effort that has gone into it. After all, it would have been much easier to use CGI to create the mascot, but it wouldn’t be treating the audience with respect.

“Although the design is based on the original, technology has moved on,” continues Campion. “The original model was clay and this one is synthetic, so his movement range is much more. His expression was really important because he is a meat stick and all he really has is his eyes, mouth and hands. What we did this time was 3D print all of his expressions.”

The creative says the agency brought along 100 facial looks for Peperami to approve. One challenge was that Animal doesn’t actually have eyelids, for example, so they had to figure out a way to show him blinking in a different way. It’s still Animal, but modernized.

When it comes to the voice, Animal has an instantly recognizable, aggressive, cutting way of communicating. Famously, the 90s mascot was voiced by English actor and comedian Adrian Edmondson. The voice is almost as important to the character as his look. This time around, the team employed a voice actor who works on children’s cartoons to somewhat replicate the unique vocals and it sounds very familiar.

And what does Animal think of his big TV debut and people’s reaction to the ad? “I reckon everyone's gonna want a piece of me! Can't blame ya. You’ll just have to get in the queue.”

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