Behind the scenes on VCCP's new Cadbury campaign

Campaign joined Cadbury and VCCP in Glasgow to witness the production of their new campaign, and spoke to global brand director Ben Wicks about how the chocolate brand plans to reclaim its place in the nation's heart.

It would be overdoing things to say that Cadbury’s marketing has been in a mess in recent times, but with ad after ad after ad it has failed to find the sweet spot that made 2007’s "Gorilla" such a classic.

Supermarket sales of the flagship sub-brand Dairy Milk were down 3.1% in the year to September, according to Nielsen data – that’s a huge £16.5m in lost sales.

According to Wicks, who was speaking to Campaign as filming was underway for the new campaign, there was a sense that the brand was losing touch with the "fabric of the nation".

There needs to be a belief system that sits behind a brand that comes ideally from your roots.

Wicks, who started in the role a year ago, decided quickly he wanted a strategic reset – a process that led to it appointing VCCP as its lead creative agency last summer.

"We felt there was an opportunity to be more human and more real and relatable," Wicks said. "That’s to put human insight back in the heart of the storytelling and to make sure the chocolate plays an important role in the way the story unfolds."

VCCP’s pitch created a "bit of nervousness", Darren Bailes, executive creative director at the agency, said, because it wanted to expand the brand’s emotional repertoire; the previous platform was focused on spreading and celebrating joy.

"We wanted to broaden it out," Bailes said. "There are way more emotions than joy. We wanted to make people feel more things – actually be quite moved."

The most effective brands come from a "why", Wicks said. "There needs to be a belief system that sits behind a brand – a purpose, some people call it – that comes ideally from your roots, and an authentic place. If that’s authentic and relatable, it can be really powerful."

The Cadbury brand was founded by a family with a real set of principles about generosity and kindness, and that’s really relevant today.

For Cadbury, that meant looking back to its origins as a philanthropically-motivated business founded by Quakers – a backstory that, according to Wicks, gives Cadbury permission to talk about ideas of generosity in its marketing.

"It was an opportunity to go back to our roots and say, why was the Cadbury brand founded in the first place? It was founded by a family with a real set of principles about generosity and kindness and we thought, that’s really relevant today.

"In today’s world it’s really easy to overlook all that. The world can seem a bit selfish, a bit nasty, but overall those messages are really relevant."

The brand also faced the challenge of remaining relevant, Wicks said. It was not enough to "keep delivering wonderful products for people who enjoy them", he said, "but also do that in a way that populates culture, gets people talking about our products, and keeps our finger on the pulse."

The campaign has not been conceived as a response to the political mood of these times, Wicks said, but he acknowledged that reminding people of the small acts of kindness they’re capable of might counteract some of the negativity and anger being thrown around at the moment.

"We see the opportunity as what happens between people – the small acts," he said. "What we want to do is shine a light on those moments, the little moments, and do that in a way that’s heartwarming and brings a smile."

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