Warburtons' Sly strategy to use Sylvester Stallone, hits the spot... somehow

Bread brand delivers the goods you didn't know you wanted with the help of star Stallone

If you’ve seen this ad, it needs no introduction from me. If you haven’t, allow me to sum it up: Sylvester Stallone delivers Warburtons bread from its home town, Bolton, to stores across the country and nothing can stop him and his team, because they are… The Deliverers.

On the wall of a creative department, it’s one of those ideas that’s tricky to judge; 95% of my brain screams "solid gold stinker", the other 5% shouts "so bad it’s good". But the problem with the 5% is it’s rarely correct about the "good" part.

However, I first saw this during an ad break at home, allowing my reaction to veer closer to the realm of my punter self, rather than the over-thinking ad creative.

When two worlds collide

From the first frame, my mind was spasmed into total bamboozlement. The complete incongruity of Stallone advertising Warburtons (two worlds that have no reason – logical, spiritual, cosmological or scatalogical – to be linked) filled my mind with questions. Synapses that had never met before were introduced, bonding over the ridiculousness of this strange encounter.

Sly’s face – "a bag of melted walnuts", as one of my kids described it – is not a good mental association when eating bread

This synapse chatter never stopped. Put simply, I enjoyed it. The agency did the one thing that saves such an idea – they bloody well went for it. Sheer bravado and unashamedly bold production. Have you ever experienced the joy of watching someone dancing badly, but with absolute conviction? That.

Much like the Van Damme Coors ads, this derives power by walking a self-referential tight rope. Are the stars self-aware, laughing at themselves doing a bad ad and thus making it good? Or are we laughing at them as they are forced to sully their previous status? Either way, it makes for good viewing.

After achieving two very difficult things, standout and memorability, does the ad make me want to eat Warburtons? I decided to test this by sticking a picture of Sly’s face on my kitchen wall. I then made my three kids eat toast while staring at it. All three cried.

Sly’s face – "a bag of melted walnuts", as one of my kids described it – is not a good mental association when eating bread. Who knew?

And then there’s the brand’s strategy. What is it? "From our family to yours" doesn’t feel that big or different from before, and I can’t imagine that Stallone will remain at the centre of it all. Maybe Warburtons will move on to another A-lister, or do something completely different, Cadbury "Joy"-style. Whatever it is, I hope it keeps my synapses from getting too comfortable.

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Which of the following

TV commercials do you remember seeing recently?

Comparethe market.com - VCCP/MEC - 63%

British Gas - CHI&Partners/Carat - 50%

Thomson - BMB/MediaCom - 42%

Gov.uk election information - DLKW Lowe/Carat - 42%

Knorr Flavour Pot - DLKW Lowe/Mindshare - 41%

B&Q - WCRS/MEC - 39% Asda - VCCP/Carat - 39%

Irn-Bru - The Leith Agency/PHD North - 37%

Sky TV - SapientNitro/MediaCom - 37%

Quorn - Mawhinney Collins/Initiative - 37%

Which of the following tv commercials do you like?

44% - Comparethe market.com - VCCP/MEC 37% 

Irn-Bru - The Leith Agency/PHD North 34% 

Warburtons - WCRS/Mindshare 32% 

Virgin Money - The&Partnership/m/SIX 32%

Robinsons - BBH/m/SIX 30%

Fiat 500X - The Richards Group/Maxus 29%

Cadbury Dairy Milk Oat Crunch - Fallon/PHD 25%

McCain - Adam & Eve DDB/PHD 20%

Allianz - 18 Feet & Rising/MediaCom 19%

Finish Quantum - Wieden & Kennedy London/ZenithOptimedia

Adwatch prompted advertising-awareness research was conducted by TNS as part of its twice-weekly OnLineBus omnibus among 1000 adults aged 16-64. For details of the survey, contact emma.dolby@tnsglobal.com (020 7656 5890). Ads were compiled by Ebiquity (020 7650 9700) and Mediaedge:cia UK (020 7803 2000).