Oatly launches plant-based puppet mini-series

The campaign has been designed not to feel like an ad and will run across platforms including Sky, All 4 and YouTube.

Oatly: puppets Norm (left) and Al try and navigate being plant-based
Oatly: puppets Norm (left) and Al try and navigate being plant-based

Oat drink brand Oatly hopes to encourage people to try a plant-based diet by using puppets to win people over, via an in-house-created branded show.

The campaign – designed not to resemble an ad – comprises a five-part mini-series featuring two oat drink carton puppets named Norm and Al, who are trying to navigate the shift to plant-based eating.

Michael Lee, creative director  at Oatly, told Campaign: "We made this campaign to help mainstream society think about and consider eating more plant-based.

"We wanted to push the message across that, now more than ever, it's easier to go plant-based, and to make that even easier to digest, why not have puppets deliver that message, because who doesn't love puppets?"

The series, created by the brand's in-house agency Oatly Department of Mind Control, begins with a five-minute pilot called "Norm's old pal Milk". It tells the origin story of how Norm and Al met. Each episode is between two and five minutes long and features a range of singing, jokes and plant-based diet encouragement.

After observing lots of divisive conversations in society, such as climate change deniers going up against environmentalists, Oatly was keen to encourage unity over division. The puppets are intended to add a "warm and fuzzy" haze to its series, it said.

Developed in collaboration with Nexus Studios "The new Norm & Al show" is Oatly's biggest ever production, using 10 puppets in the cast and eight sets. The whole production process took place over eight months with Lee monitoring a 12-day shoot over video call due to Covid safety measures.

Behind the creative is director Conor Finnegan and puppet-maker Andy Gent, who worked on Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs. The voice cast included Alexander Perkins as Norm, Ethan Lawrence as Al, and Rob Witcomb as Milk. The chemistry between the actors can be heard in the resulting series, with Lee revealing that some improvised moments made the final cut.

All five episodes of "The new Norm & Al show" will appear on YouTube and Oatly.com. The launch will be supported by Oatly's largest UK digital media buy campaign across broadcast video-on-demand (Sky, All 4 and ITV Hub), programmatic VOD (YouTube), display ads and social VOD (Facebook & Instagram).

A series of trailers has been created to encourage consumers to watch the series.

Lee added: "Norm and Al only care if you watch the show, so the trailers are pushing [consumers] to the show, not to Oatly. But because Norm and Al are Oatly cartons, it's a bit of a circular argument."

The campaign will also run across OOH from 17 to 30 January, in London, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow, as well as on thousands of buses around the country for four weeks. The campaign is also planned to launch across Europe over the next few weeks in markets including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, as well as Australia.

In addition to the digital campaign, Oatly has partnered with The Guardian across print, display and audio. There will be a cover-wrap and advertorials in The Observer Magazine, plus display takeovers, sliding doors and audio 30" podcast ads.

Oatly will also give away thousands of sample oat coffees in special Norm and Al cups from the "Oatly Not Milk Bar' in Manchester and London, as well as in partnership with coffee shops around the UK.

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