Adwatch (May 16) Top 20 recall: Bird's Eye

Birds Eye's Polar Bear campaign is good not great

 I do like the Wilem Dafoe-voice-enabled ‘polar bear’ campaign - he helps the brand perform a strong ‘disruptive’ move by elevating Birds Eye out of the sea of frozen food claims and conventions, into mainstream culture. So hats off to Birds Eye and the agencies responsible for creating such a strongly-recalled ad. On the other hand, perhaps it’s not actually that hard in today’s financially cautious world, stuffed with average ads with average messages.

Because, whilst the campaign is clearly being remembered and is good, I don’t think it’s great (yet), nor do I think it will fundamentally change the fortunes of the brand in the face of what must be the classic FMCG conundrum - how to regain a modicum of the brand’s former glory in a marketplace it can no longer dominate.

Consumers are the savviest they’ve ever been, able to rationalise and peel away brand fluff in pursuit of the best products at the best prices. Retailers have cultivated a cycle of promotional dependency that is short-term focussed and perversely rips value from the heart of its categories. And copycat brands with ‘me-too’ claims and own-label products make it nearly impossible for brands to justify a premium and build loyalty.

As great as the dark art is, how is ‘polar bear’ going to overcome all of that? Its greatest hope is to create as much fame and following as it can, to truly gain cultural traction in a market where puppets, performing monkeys and animated creatures are common fare. Yes this campaign has achieved strong recall, but that’s not the same as brand love. And the cost of not creating love, is having to spend your way into the public consciousness.

I recommend two manoeuvres to help make the campaign work harder. Firstly, make ‘polar bear’ more than a stand-up comic with the ability to narrate a series of product messages. Instead, make him the embodiment of something Birds Eye stands for. For example, does ‘polar bear’ advocate that ‘frozen is best’, a fight against the snobbery of middle class foodies and/or the possible baggage created by the cheap and cheerful, not so healthy, world of frozen ready meals? Then, secondly, have some fun. Currently, the ‘polar bear’s’ delivery is dry, his humour dark-ish, slightly uncomfortable. He doesn’t leave me wanting more, he doesn’t bring out laughter or tears. Now that ‘polar bear’ has something to stand and fight for (that will serve the business) we can afford to go a little crazy. Isn’t this the same audience that’s in love with primetime TV shows such as ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ & ‘Britain’s Got (often no) Talent’?

For whilst the ‘polar bear’ is not padlocked to the freezer, he walks in fields and can ‘Go to the peas’, he is hampered.  Without something to stand for he won’t stand out. And then he’s in real danger of extinction. Boom boom.

Brand strategy verdict: 6 out of 10

 Good effort to take the polar bear out of the fridge.

But stops short of great without a clear cause at its heart.

Adwatch: Top 20 recall (May 16)
Latest May-09 Brand Agency/TV Buyer Recall
rank       %
1 -6 Morrisons  DLKW Lowe/MEC 49
2 -8 Virgin Media  Bartle Bogle Hegarty/Fifty6 48
3 (–) Mars  Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/
4 (–) Kellogg's
Crunchy Nut
Leo Burnett/Carat 41
5 -4 Harveys  HMDG/MediaVest 37
6 (–) Birds Eye  Abbott Mead Vickers
7 (–) Mikado  BETC Euro RSCG/PHD 34
8 (–) Barclays
Bartle Bogle Hegarty/
9 (–) Plusnet  Karmarama/Maxus 31
10= (19=) Tesco  The Red Brick Road/
10= (–) Dr Oetker  BBDO Düsseldorf/
MEC Manchester
10= (–)  Mother/Initiative 30
13 (–) Cadbury
Dairy Milk
Fallon London/PHD 27
14 (–) Homebase  Leo Burnett/Mindshare 26
15= (–) L'Oreal
(Recital Preference)
McCann Erickson/
15= (–) Adidas  Sid Lee/Carat 25
17 (–) Fiat 500  Leo Burnett, Krow
18 (–) Cereal Partners  McCann-Erickson/
19 (–) Airwick  Euro RSCG London/
20 (–) Nivea Q10  Draft FCB/Carat 21