The earliest ad here is an anthem to waking up (2). We see dewy roses opening, innocent days dawning, and hungry, happy people pouring out the Kellogg's Corn Flakes. This is the sunshine breakfast, the breakfast that you wake up to with a sunny disposition. It's even made from sun-ripened corn.
As the reel unfolds, however, you remember that Corn Flakes wasn't a brand positioned through unswerving repetition of a simple claim. Corn Flakes has spent the whole of its adult life adjusting and tweaking to avoid on-coming obstacles.
And own-label has not been the only foe. Almost every consumer pillar has crumbled. Families are less nuclear. Breakfast is less routine. Health has become all relative. Convenience has raised the bar. Even the innocence of sunshine is a moot point.
What the advertising has done (and magnificently at that) is soldier on. The story of Kellogg's Corn Flakes advertising is one of inventiveness in the face of seismic change. It is one of artful zigzags and stoic consistencies, guided by a faultless radar for the tastes of middle-class Middle England.
The work has another genius, too. It manages to sit politely between conservative suburbia and eccentric Britannia. I guess you can't be on that many millions of British tables without having something fundamentally barking in your DNA and, in one of the campaigns on the reel, this madness comes breaking gloriously through (4). Spike Milligan sits in a white limbo set in convict pyjamas and weaves a surreal monologue around a box of the nation's (then) favourite breakfast cereal.
And it's not just for its madness that this 1983 work stands out. It is confident, verging on iconic and it is tempting to wonder where the brand could have gone creatively had it followed this path.
Instead, it tacks several times before returning to its original course.
In 1988, it laments "If only everything in life were as simple as Kellogg's Corn Flakes" (5). A secretary wrestles with Linguaphone Serbo-Croat.
Kellogg's Corn Flakes is simple, but you know as you watch it, the product wasn't born to be a solution to a problem, and in this "break from complexity" idea there is more than a slight loan from Kit Kat.
Next, in 1991, comes "Have you forgotten how good they taste?" (6). Despite the faintest echo of "Please buy me again one day", the writing is an ornament to any kitchen table, and I bet it worked. As so often, it's the parting touches that lift ads above the ordinary. The father's moment of selfishness ("Have some toast") and the plump disgruntlement of the toddler. Like so much of J. Walter Thompson's output of that era, this has been crafted within an inch of blue-chip perfection.
Finally, we return to the years BC (1). Not "before competition" but "before Corn Flakes". Better known as the Neanderthal state before man has eaten his Kellogg's Corn Flakes in the morning. If the challenge for mature FMCG brands is to find a new angle where there appears to be none, then this last campaign is a triumph. And, as though in summary of all the battles the brand has fought along the way, the line it carries combines the confidence of a favourite with the rhetoric of competitive marketing: "Have you woken up to Kellogg's Corn Flakes?"
1. KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES Title: Dawn of man Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 2000 2. KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES Title: Roses waking up Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1971 3. KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES Title: Sunshine breakfast 30 Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1978 4. KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES Title: Plug Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1983 5. KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES Title: Pig hunt Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1988 6. KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES Title: Toddler Agency: J. Walter Thompson Year: 1991