"We made a mistake that I guess a lot of agencies were making back then," David Lubars, the chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO (pictured, left, with Jane Wakely, chief marketing officer of Mars Chocolate), recalls. "It was the era of Jackass movies and Maxim. We had a campaign that appealed to guys in their twenties, but polarised everyone else."
In one characteristic spot, a man wearing a toupée made of Snickers bars sobs in his car after co-workers tell him they know he’s bald. "It’s only satisfying if you eat it," read the tagline.
Quirky? Yes. Funny? Maybe. Did it make grandma want to eat a Snickers? Probably not.
In 2009, after a stint with TBWA\Chiat\Day, Snickers returned to BBDO – this time with a big demand from parent company Mars.
"We wanted a worldwide campaign that could unite our markets behind an idea so powerful it could inspire consumers to make it the ‘world’s favourite chocolate bar’," Wakely says. Lubars gave his word: "I promised it would be funny and high quality, but everybody could love it – like The Beatles. And the product will return as the focus."
The result was "You’re not you when you’re hungry," a global campaign that takes a universal insight – hunger brings out the worst in us – and personifies it with celebrities in 87 markets. In the US, Robin Williams played a football coach who gets "a little loopy"; in Australia, a motocross rider becomes a "cranky old man" (Home and Away star Ray Meagher); and in the UK, Joan Collins is "a right diva". The solution, of course: a Snickers.
"We were searching for a big idea that was consistent globally but allowed local market creativity and engagement," says Wakely.
"They wanted something big and famous – the best clients demand your best," Lubars adds. "But they also had the sensitivity of saying: ‘Let’s not make one piece of work and drop it everywhere.’"
Debuting during the 2010 Super Bowl, to date the campaign has been honoured with 13 Cannes Lions, 12 Effies, 13 One Show awards, two D&AD Pencils, two Emmy nominations, one IPA Effectiveness Award and the first-ever Super Bowl Clio.
As a private company, Mars doesn’t release sales figures. However, Wakely says the campaign "has helped step change our core Snickers business. Not bad for a brand that’s 86 years old".
The work paid off for BBDO, too. In 2011, when Mars consolidated its global business, it was handed creative duties for Dove [Galaxy], Twix, Whiskas and Pedigree. The "feed the good" global campaign for the latter closely mirrors the Snickers template of a big idea with local interpretations.
Is Mars thinking of moving on to the next idea? "Are you nuts (excuse the pun)?" Wakely says. "When you find an idea this powerful and flexible that inspires creatives and clients to find new ways to execute it every day, it’s our job to nurture and build the campaign for the next generation."
Chief marketing officer, Mars Chocolate
First and foremost, we love working with BBDO as they want the same as us: great and famous work that drives our business and makes us smile. We have a strong and mutual partnership, which stems from the people and mutual respect for our crafts.
Fundamentally, our successful relationship with BBDO derives from two of our five principles on which we operate our whole business – mutuality and freedom. Mutuality is all about ensuring there is a shared and enduring benefit for the partners we work with. And we love to give BBDO the creative freedom to push the boundaries of the idea so we can keep the idea fresh and relevant. This only comes from deep trust and mutual respect.
We also share a passion with BBDO to continually improve. We both understand that, with the power of our brand and a great campaign such as "You’re not you when you’re hungry", comes great responsibility to keep innovating. We want the best talent to work on our business. This is key to our success. To attract the best talent, we need to be at the leading edge.
We look forward to the opportunity to continue to build a great partnership with BBDO in the years ahead, and always look forward to the next creative execution of this inspiring campaign. Who wouldn’t?
Chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO
The first thing you notice about Mars people is how nice they are. Theirs is a family-built culture that shows itself in several productive and attractive ways: they’re not political; they say what the mean; and they don’t approve work by committee.
Another thing is that they hate "good". To them, good equals bad. Mars demands our very best, which is the best gift a client can give you. You kill yourself for people like this. There’s trust and respect on both sides.
It sounds simple and easy, but, if it were, every agency relationship around the world would last forever and produce brilliant work. A great agency-client relationship is like a marriage – you need to keep it interesting and fresh, and never take each other for granted.
For Snickers, Mars challenged us to create something big, famous and culturally "zeitgeisty". The successful and popular "You’re not you when you’re hungry" runs in 87 countries and has won more than a few Lions, Pencils and Effies.