Brand Strategy Football Marketing

Low-hanging fruit corner: surely Müller’s Declan Rice puns are too simple to work?


By Mike Alhadeff, Senior strategist

July 18, 2023 | 6 min read

Mike Alhadeff, senior strategist at AMV BBDO, wonders if marketers are overcomplicating strategy. The ad sparking the question features footballer Declan Rice and a very obvious pun.


Declan Rice is the new kid in at Arsenal FC but he is also flavor of the month among brands. In the UK he recently starred in a new Müller Corner ad campaign (pictured). It was a collaboration between the Rices – Declan and Müller.

My initial reaction was that it was crap – and frankly lazy (it doesn’t take a huge leap in the imagination to put the two together).

But I was in a mischievous mood on a Tuesday evening and decided to post it on my Instagram – that well-known focus group when half your mates work in the industry. The reaction I would say was 75-25 split against the ad. Of the 25% who liked the ad, many considered it wonderfully simple and catchy. I could see their point (almost.)

Perhaps revealingly, no one outside of my advertising circle commented, indicating how much of the wider public care about advertising.

Not a lot is the answer.

However, perhaps more revealingly, this interaction spiraled me into an existential critique of the role of strategy in the great process of making ads. While I would argue that ad was bad (the lazy pun, the art direction, etc), it undoubtedly didn’t overcomplicate things.

And it begged the question, are strategists guilty of overcomplicating things? Probably yes. And there are sometimes good reasons for this (we live in an increasingly complicated world), and there are sometimes bad reasons for this to prove intellectual superiority.

However, it is perhaps more nuanced than that. Strategists don’t necessarily fall foul of overcomplicating things, but maybe they sometimes fall foul of missing the obvious. Or not starting to look in the most obvious places, eg the products and features of the very brands we work on.

Again, there may be a myriad of reasons for this, from the belief that brands must hook themselves on to something cool in culture to the belief that brands must play a wider role in the world, ie purpose. But whatever you think about the Müller ad, the partnership with Declan Rice doubles down on the defining feature of the product – a rice-based yogurt (and probably creates a lasting impression with consumers).

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So, if this highlights the need to take a more inward look at brand, it doesn’t negate the role of the role of a strategist. In fact, it should increase their usefulness. They should spend more time rummaging around (technical term) on the brands they work on, trying to find any useful bits of information which could be useful jumping-off points for the creative imagination. For example, the insight which helped power ’You’re not you when you’re hungry’ came from the fact that a Snickers bar contains a lot of nuts that help keep you going.

Or take the Guinness ’Good Things Come to Those Who Wait,’ which was derived from the observation that it takes longer to pour a pint of Guinness. More recently, VOXI’s new campaign for unlimited social data dramatizes what this really means by featuring two immortal brains. And then there’s the ‘Should Have Gone to Specsavers’, which brilliantly dramatizes the pitfalls of not visiting the opticians.

These are all simple, powerful ideas started from simple observations from the brand. So, yes strategists should never feel guilty about starting from simple beginnings, but. please, please, please no puns starting with a footballer’s name.

We can do better.

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