It’s the war of the chocolate brands and everyone’s invited to sling some mud.
What a shocker of a time to be in advertising/marketing/PR for Cadbury – it’s a real communications nightmare.
I suppose it seemed like a great idea to Cadbury at the time: downsize the chocolate block by 50g, save some money, add in some nasties and take out some goodies, and disguise it all as a better experience for the consumer along with “Great New Packaging”. And hey presto! You’ve fought that evil thing we call “recession” (never mind that chocolate is largely considered recession-proof as it’s a “trivial purchase”).
Cadbury would’ve likely gotten away with it 10 years ago, but things have changed, friends. The consumer isn’t a muppet, for a start – and lack of muppetry is a big stumbling block when a brand is pulling a silly stunt like this. We’re also now in the age of a consumer-enabled technology; the tools are readily available should anyone want to fight back.
It’s culminated in some shocking PR on Campbell Live and an ad by Kiwi chocolate company Whittaker’s, which has proven with an extremely simple presentation that its product is superior. (Worse!)
200g compared to 250g. 21% cocoa compared to 33% cocoa. Added vegetable fat, or pure cocoa butter? Made by dingoes or made by Kiwis? Cadbury, you’re the weakest link. Put out your torch, leave the island, say goodbye to Big Brother and log out of your Facebook.
It's pretty smart for Whittaker’s to jump on the chocolate bandwagon and make hay while the sun shines out of their arse. It's a very simple, clear ad – one that’ll greatly influence consumer perceptions of both brands – and a great way to build on the brand’s campaign line in years gone by of “good honest chocolate”.
Comparative advertising is hardly new, but it’s not often done locally. New Zealand is a nation of people who just don’t want to risk pissing other people off – it’s too small to burn any bridges, so we keep our opinions to ourselves.
Perhaps one of the most famous incidences of comparative advertising was when Burger King took on McDonald’s in the US with this ad featuring a very young Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was then named in a lawsuit from the rather angry Golden Arches.
Locally, the Advertising Standards Authority’s guidelines demand it be factual and informative; should explicitly or by implication make clear what comparison is being made; and should not mislead the consumer about other products or services with which comparisons might be made.
Advertisers shouldn’t “unfairly attack or discredit” other products, advertisers or advertisements either directly or by implication.
Being so simple and clear, the Whittaker’s ad is likely to be home safe.
Cadbury could moan about this – although apparently they have no desire to engage in a tit-for-tat campaign against Whittaker’s – but they prefer to concentrate on the “fun and enjoyment” in chocolate.
Maybe they should concentrate less on fun and enjoyment and more on producing a fair product that lives up to the brand’s heritage.
So where can Cadbury go from here? Papering over the cracks with more Fun-Fun ads involving hairy animals and irritating kids with stupid facial expressions simply isn’t going to cut it. If your product is crap, no amount of Good Ads are going to help. You can throw all the gorillas and eyebrows at it you want, but consumers can see through the thin haze of ad spin and right into the company's evil nasty-pants corporate frozen heart.
Shame on you, Cadbury, for you are evil. (We shoulda known when they killed off the Snifter that things were going downhill.)
So, what say you? Has the chocolate controversy changed your buying habits?
Check out Whittaker’s ads through the years here.
And click here to tell the Whittaker brothers how much you’d love a dark chocolate version of their coconut block. Oooh yeah. You know it.