Case study: Oreo Eclipse

Oreo, Mondelez, and PHD  

Oreo Eclipse

Category: Marketing in the moment


The tendency for our industry to succumb to hyperbole around brands ‘owning’ things that can’t really be owned isn’t lost on us. In fact, we could have easily added the subject of this paper – the 2015 Solar Eclipse – to the list below. This case study isn’t about Oreo taking ‘ownership’ of anything. What it is, is a demonstration of how a brand can use marketing to elicit a response and add colour and enjoyment to a national event by going beyond small-scale tactics and giving its marketing national scale, too. We hope you enjoy reading it.

Why we did what we did

In the US, Oreo is a fundamental part of the ‘milk and cookie’ culture and one of the country’s most famous brands. But, here, as a Brands Live/IPSOS report from March 2015 states, it’s still a relatively recent addition to Britain’s traditionally beige biscuit repertoire. According to the report, Oreo enjoys just 10% of the unprompted awareness and 40% less trial than the UK’s market-leader. With a mission to drive trial and make Oreo a more iconic brand in the hearts and minds of Brits, we looked to the skies for inspiration. And found it. 

How we did it

The UK’s first solar eclipse for 16 years was a perfect event for Oreo (one that, handily, also looked like the product itself). Knowing the amount of noise the UK media would make around the event, and suspecting that the British weather would likely do its best to ruin it for everyone, we set out to create our own Oreo Eclipse.

This idea didn’t come from a client brief. We took it to the Oreo brand team knowing that there was no budget allocated to the project. However, they loved the idea so much that they set off to find the budget to make it happen.

But client sign-off wasn’t as straightforward as finding the money. We suspected that the eclipse would see other brands settle for opportunistic social-media stunts. To make a genuine impact on shopper trial, the Oreo Eclipse couldn’t be that. It needed to be a high-profile event, executed at scale.

This would be done through using the UK’s biggest newspaper in a way no one had done before: utlising ground-breaking, dataled outdoor and supporting it all with a fully integrated content strategy online.

However, this meant that before we could get client sign-off we had to solve the logistical conundrums of synching astronomical data to outdoor creative and how to cover-wrap more than 2m copies of The Sun with a material that had never been used for that purpose before.

In partnership with seven different stakeholders, we overcame these financial, logistical and production hurdles in just 10 days and the 'Oreo Eclipse' was born. 

Literally eclipsing The Sun 

On 20 March, we started the day by quite literally eclipsing The Sun, covering more than 2m copies of Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper with its first-ever translucent cover wrap.

Covering the all-important front page headline of Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper isn’t an easy sell. It required painstaking logistical, reproduction and paper-procurement planning from News UK’s commercial team, PHD and our creative partners just to get the idea fully formed enough to sell to The Sun’s editor – who, thankfully, loved the idea.

As the translucent paper had to be specially ordered in bulk, we were able to negotiate two additional special translucent Oreo Eclipse ads inside the paper for no extra cost, taking advantage of the off-cuts and minimising paper waste. In addition to the 2m printed editions, Oreo also took over thesun.co.uk for the duration of the eclipse. 

The Oreo Eclipse in real-time 

In the course of the eclipse, specially created digital outdoor sites used Oreos to re-create what was happening in the sky above them in real-time.

We achieved this by inputting Royal Astronomical Society data into the sites to allow them to mirror the exact timings and trajectory of the Sun and Moon on the screens – no matter where in the UK the sites were.

This wasn’t straighiorward. Even though we’re a relatively small island, the timings of the eclipse differed across the country and our data needed to pinpoint the eclipse’s movement in each location (for example, the eclipse started five minutes later in Edinburgh than it did in London). 

Results: The Oreo Eclipse was a campaign where everyone won.

Did we achieve the Oreo eclipse at scale?

Yes. We had gone beyond it merely being a tactical stunt – 20m people saw our #OreoEclipse in just one day and news of the campaign was covered by over 20 different publications – with coverage travelling across the globe.

Did Oreo enhance the UK’s enjoyment of the eclipse?

Yes. As anyone who lives in the SE of England will remember, the weather in most of the UK made the spectacle… less spectacular, and for many people, the #OreoEclipse was the ONLY one they enjoyed on 20 March.