OPINION: Mills on ... Kit Kat

We hear a lot these days about the need for agencies to produce a Big Idea (remember, it's mandatory to cap up the first two letters when talking about this). Too often, however, the Big Idea tends to be a small idea inflated with a lot of hot air.

Now Kit Kat is not a brand that you would think needs a big idea. With 47 bars eaten every second, it is Britain's number one countline. Indeed, some might say, it is already underpinned by a big idea in the shape of the "Have a Break ... Have a Kit Kat" line which has been in use since 1957.

It's true to say, nevertheless, that the idea of linking a snack to a break is generic. Equally, however, I would argue that Kit Kat shows that if you stick consistently to an idea, no matter how generic, and build that idea into your advertising DNA, you have every chance of making it your own. You just have to look at Mars Bar's recent gyrations around its positioning to see how Kit Kat has effectively denied its rivals room to manoeuvre.

But the thing about all big ideas, especially 46-year-old ones, is that they need nurturing and, from time to time, updating; hence this new ad from Kit Kat which introduces us to a "break philosopher" and trails Nestle's call for the entire country to have a 15-minute break at 3pm on 21 March - which is what you might call A Very Big Idea. Promotions and a flurry of other advertising activity starting from 17 March will build to that aim. You can imagine the PR that will ensue.

With all the rumours surrounding Mars' plan to launch a new product called Take a Break, it's easy to conclude that this is just a response - albeit a massive one - to the perceived threat. Not so, according to Nestle, which says that this is all about re-establishing and contemporising the break idea. According to its own research, Kit Kat advertising was in danger of falling into one of two traps: either people could remember the line but not the product; or they'd lost the sense of the message behind the advertising. Either way, Nestle felt, something major was needed.

Which brings us to a new 30-second ad that features the Lock, Stock ... star Jason Statham as a "break philosopher". Visions of Samuel L Jackson as a "money philosopher" may swim into your mind at this point, but fear not. He's much more succinct, to start with, and he talks about, well, how salmon fight this vainglorious battle to swim upstream and how, when they get there after all this heroic effort, they die. Except he's really talking about us, and the salmon is a metaphor for the futility of existence.

Don't be like salmon, he is saying, don't spend your whole life travelling but never arriving. Compared with Wittgenstein this may be philosophy-lite but at least it has the merit, unlike Mr Jackson, of being instantly comprehensible. I particularly like the bit where, as Statham tells us salmon die, we hear the sound of a Kit Kat being snapped.

But does the idea of having a break really need refreshing? Back in 1957, the workforce was factory dominated. People had breaks at work. The Big Idea then was to get them to eat a Kit Kat in their break. Today we live in a service-dominated, 24/7 economy where, even if people can take breaks, they probably don't dare. The role of the Big Idea, therefore, has subtly shifted to encouraging people to take a break.

Obviously the idea of a company as Swiss as Nestle standing up for workers' rights - they'll be singing The Red Flag at company meetings next - takes a bit of getting used to. But if you can put your cynicism to one side, you've got to admit it's not only Big, but Bang on strategy too.

Dead cert for a Pencil? It's not that kind of ad.

File under ... I for idealistic.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Here in Switzerland, life is one

long break."

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