The Holy Grail of Adland is the art of advertising an old brand in a new way. TBWA\London show how to go about it in their new, actor-free ad for McVitie's.
When it comes to branding, being around for almost 200 years is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because everyone knows who you are. A curse, because there's a danger people get bored of you and think you're old hat.
So what's the solution? One approach might be to reinvent yourself with a whole new name, look, visual identity, packaging, etc. But then you risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Instead, McVitie's, first launched in 1830, has decided to double down and, well, own their grand age. In a brilliantly executed campaign led by TBWA\London, the biscuit brand presents itself as the 'True Originals'.
Hearts and minds
It's all a major new masterbrand platform for McVitie's, which the press release describes as "bringing 'Britain's biggest biscuit brand' back into the hearts and minds of the nation, with the launch of True Originals."
Actually, we weren't aware it had ever gone away, but maybe that's a sign of metropolitan types not understanding us folk living in the regions. Or perhaps the recent jump in food prices has led sales of McVitie's biscuits to tail off. Who knows? Either way, it's a great ad.
Firstly, because it instantly sells the 'originals' concept by bringing on much-loved newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald, who remains a huge cultural figure despite having retired 15 years ago. Secondly, because it brings it to life with fun and silly moments, such as a goat in an Argentina shirt and a real-life hedgehog scampering along a pavement collecting virtual coins.
Sense of fun
Younger people will get those pop culture references; older people may not. But the ad works just the same, thanks to some smart editing, a frenetic pace and a general sense of fun. Best of all, it's all given contemporary street cred thanks to an upbeat soundtrack by rapper Little Simz.
The ad begins with a red door showing the number '1' followed by the unmistakably smooth tones of Sir Trevor, who lists a host of 'truly original' cultural icons, from the Great Wall of China to The Godfather. The film humorously contrasts these with images of poor imitations. And it's all tied together by the line: "There's only one biscuit… the true original… And one person to tell you about it. Me, Trevor McDonald."
Viewers then see a Sir Trevor impersonator in a cramped voiceover studio and realise it was a fake all along – until the camera pans to a flashy news studio where the true original news reader is holding a genuine McVitie's biscuit. "Actually, it's Sir Trevor McDonald, and I'll take it from here," he says.
The ad has been broadcast across TV, cinema, BVOD (broadcast video on demand) and OLV (online video) and is being supported by a wave of activity across social and shopper marketing.
Portraits of Britain
"The vignettes are almost like little portraits of Britain," says director Sam Pilling. "And in classic British fashion, they are a bit crappy and not the finished article, yet each character has pride in their actions. Tonally, it's somewhere between The Fast Show and Only Fools and Horses. I also wanted our characters breaking the fourth wall and reacting to our voiceover at various points in the film, so this photographic style lent itself to shooting on film."
Surprisingly, he reveals, there are no actors in the film. "All the Elvis impersonators are indeed Elvis impersonators, and we worked with a real dry-stone waller," says Sam. "That level of authenticity was important to me, which in turn affected our locations. We needed a strong visual variety.
"The 4:3 aspect ratio was something that further enhanced the photographic portrait approach, but it also served the product perfectly. Biscuits are circular, and therefore, when filmed, they fit into a near-square space way better than 16:9!"