The launch lowdown: eat the cricket, fight the robot and make sure your mates are OK

It’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain. That’s what a man with funny hair said in 1991, and another man with funny hair certainly made this November interesting too. Sure, he didn’t have Slash ripping out a guitar solo while stood on a piano, but Donald Trump’s musings from forest fires to military gave the news something else to cover other than Brexit in 2018's penultimate month.

But not so much that November's standout launches were forgotten. Obviously.

Jiminy Cricket is dead. Long live… actually, no, let’s eat him

Sustainable eating is a now officially a Thing™. You can huff about exclusionary diets being for attention seekers all you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that what’s on your plate affects the world around you. Between vegan scaremongering - they only comprise a tiny fraction of our population - and plastic panic, Sainsbury’s came up with a novel solution: crickets.

Yes. Actual crickets. To eat. As a snack. Rather than something like pork scratchings - which, along with other meat production, is crippling our environment - Sainsbury’s rolled out its ‘Eat Grub’ range, offering dried crickets in Smoky BBQ, Sweet Chilli & Lime and Peri-Peri flavours, available at a respectable £1.50 each.

What the retailer’s trying to do is admirable. To avoid the climate’s destruction, us folks in the UK and US need to slash our beef intake by 90 percent and milk by 60, while ramping up our beans and pulses between four and six times. That’s an enormous amount, and ideas like ‘Eat Grub’ are a way of shifting the focus from traditional meat snacks to something more sustainable. Launching onto the snacks aisle like a ‘normal’ food was a smart move, as was debuting with relatable packaging that clearly displays the flavours we’re all so familiar with. Unfortunately, seeing as it’s the first mainstream launch of its kind - and, well, it’s made by a company called ‘Eat Grub’ - it’s still been treated as something of a novelty.

Give it a few years and we’ll all be munching worms.

Dave drops the #banter and delivers something properly beautiful

You know Dave. The panel shows, the reruns, the snarky little remarks in their ads. The UKTV comedy channel is known as ‘the home of witty banter’, but its recent pairing with male suicide charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) launches a year-long partnership into territories anew. Perhaps there’ll be banter. Perhaps not.

On 26th November, Dave aired a four-minute ad takeover running with the hashtag #BeTheMateYoudWant. And it’s simple, really. Just make sure your friends are all right. Text them, tweet them, give them a call. This being the campaign’s initial launch, Dave and CALM really set out their stall: it’s OK to not be OK. There are beer mats, coffee cups, on-air promos, print, OOH, radio ads and more social media activity to come, and that’s not even taking into account the UKTV/CALM podcast and commissioned comedy content launching next year, all geared towards supporting male friendship and preventing male suicide.

When it mattered, Dave dropped the jokes and delivered, all while retaining its quirky USP and sincerely supporting CALM.

Something about Skynet

The ‘will it/won’t it take our jobs?’ pantomime of AI is always fun to watch, but then stuff like this happens and it makes you consider breaking your computer, tearing apart the Cloud and doing everything via carrier pigeons. Because Japanese car manufacturer Lexus has scripted an entire ad for its new ES executive saloon.

The script was birthed with AI by IBM, which has previous in this field. IBM’s Watson computer system assembled the trailer for horror film Morgan two years ago, selecting the moments that would best tantalise audiences. But that was analysis rather than assembly - this Lexus ad was completely scripted by Watson.

Unveiled during London’s Social Media Week activities held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, the launch succeeded on two levels. One is because, well, the ad’s actually good, rather than a curio you’ll read in those ‘I fed my AI 1,000000 words of dinosaur erotica and this is what it wrote!’ articles.

The second reason is that this shows AI technology can be trusted to support a major launch. It wasn’t a gimmicky nice-to-have - it was an integral part of this launch, delivering what was needed and giving people more to talk about beyond just the product it was promoting.

Iceland disgusts and tugs heartstrings in equal measure

So Iceland had a busy month. Following its anti-palm oil ad, which racked up over 65 million views across social media just a month after its release, the retailer looked to preserve something else. Something a little less vital than the rainforest, but an integral UK staple nonetheless: Brussels sprouts.

The much-maligned veggies could be on the brink of extinction, with over half of us believing they’ll vanish from our plates completely by 2020, buried by tenderstem broccoli and cauliflower cheese. Iceland and Unilever couldn’t bear to see this happen, so partnered the humble sprout with an equally divisive product - the very name that commissioned the study predicting Brussel Sprouts’ impending demise. Marmite.

Together, the two unfairly hated foodstuffs were packaged under one banner just in time for Christmas. Marmite Brussels are Iceland-exclusive and are exactly what you’d expect: Brussels sprouts lathered in Marmite butter, which allegedly brings out the sprouts’ sweet side while suppressing their bitterness. In terms of launching in a crowded market, this move is genius - Christmas is such a hectic time to launch a new product, and there’s a real risk of getting lost in the shuffle. Not the case here.

Alexis Eyre is head of marketing at launch marketing agency Five by Five

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