Cadbury Gorilla advert

Today in my Advertising: Research and Regulations class, my professor mentioned this particular TV spot from Cadbury as an example of an immensely successful advertising campaign that would have seen no light if put through research. This much I agree with.

There were some oriental students in class who saw the TV spot for the first time in their life in class today and had no prior knowledge of its success. As soon as the ad ended, they gasped and started shaking their head intensely. The professor noticed that and thought it was interesting so he questioned why they shook their head, and in response, they started nodding their head instead. That second reaction can start a whole new discussion unrelated to this particular ad, but I’m not planning to get into that today.

What I realized from these students’ immediate reaction was how silly the ad was. The first time I saw it was a very long time ago and I remember I found it very difficult to stop laughing. And after that, I began reading on how successful the whole campaign was, and not only in the UK but all over the world as well. So I guess I failed to seriously consider the silliness that made this ad so good.

Then I began to wonder why it was such a success and how people related it to the chocolate brand Cadbury, as it has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate. (Well, sure the background was purple which is Cadbury’s brand color, but come on.)

I got to read up some stuff on the Gorilla campaign and found that Cadbury’s brand reputation was suffering due to many reasons (PR blunders and product recalls due to, for example, some chocolate containing salmonella bacteria and some products containing nuts being released without nut allergy warnings). So they decided to step away from the traditional media/advertising means and hired the London advertising agency Fallon to do their advertising.

The Gorilla TV spot was first released during the famous UK teen reality TV show called Big Brother, whose young audience is the main target audience for this same ad campaign. It was such a big success that the ad was uploaded to YouTube shortly after it was aired and got 500,000 views after one week. This was followed by Facebook groups dedicated to the TV ad, and a ton of parodies made by both amateurs and other established brands.

Fallon explained the rationalization behind the Gorilla TV spot that the idea was  “founded upon the notion that all communications should be as effortlessly enjoyable as eating the bar itself.”

My professor said today that the ad has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate and therefore it doesn’t make sense. It’s just “plain silliness”.

I can understand where he’s coming from but not all advertising is about the product, is it? You can advertise the product, and you can advertise the brand. And in this situation, it’s the latter. So you can’t just look at an ad and say  that it’s not related to the product and so it wouldn’t work.

This ad campaign spoke to the people, to the target audience. It doesn’t have to say “Our chocolate tastes good” but it says “We understand you and what you enjoy”. It’s humor and entertainment. And that works perfectly as a viral campaign.

There might not be a great explanation of why they wanted to use a gorilla and not a polar bear, or why he should play the drums and not the guitar, or why they used Phil Collins’ song and not The Beatles.

But great advertising doesn’t have to make sense sometimes. You know why? It’s because the target audience is human beings. And human beings are not always logical.

We aspire to live with logic but we are driven by our feelings. That’s how our brain is structured. The parts of our brain that control emotions are separated from those that process logic. We can’t fight nature.

That’s why sometimes I feel so conflicted in this class. Research is all about logic and making sense of things surrounding advertising. It fights against nature of human beings. It forces logic and reasoning into things that sometimes can only be explained with feelings. “It just feels right.”

If you’d like to read more on the Gorilla advertising campaign, check out this page from Wikipedia.