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Advertisers have faced a unique set of challenges over the last year or so, navigating the realities of communicating during a pandemic. For those choosing to directly reference COVID, the tone has naturally shifted over time – from messages of community and support, through to resilience and optimism. However, the core intent has remained the same – to build emotional warmth during a time of uncertainty. As the world enters the next phase of the pandemic and slowly starts to reopen, brands are presented with an opportunity to capitalize on the anticipation and excitement of a return to normality.
Enter Wrigley’s Extra gum and their latest ad – ‘For When It’s Time’ – which marks a shift to a more light-hearted “not-too-distant future”, where people can finally leave the house, socialize, and… make out – after freshening their breath with Extra gum, of course! The ad presents a joyous celebration of life’s simple pleasures, while taking a light-hearted look at the insecurities associated with a return to presentability and social norms.
Showcasing how fresh breath smooths over very personal and intimate interactions isn’t anything new for the category – or for Wrigley’s (and is in fact something we’ve covered before), but this ad strikes a different note by building relevance to the current circumstances.
What did people think of this approach? We put it to the test using our three C’s framework:
There remains a risk for any brand taking a more light-hearted approach during a pandemic, even when celebrating steps towards its end. However, the fun and upbeat tone was well-enjoyed, with very few considering it inappropriate or flippant. Instead, dramatizing the optimism of lockdown ending struck a chord with people, with the ad eliciting feelings of inspiration – demonstrating the power of leveraging a universal human truth.
The emotive soundtrack – courtesy of Celine Dion – built further distinctiveness, capturing and holding viewers’ attention despite the long 2:30 runtime. Some people (particularly those 35+) did find the kissing scenes and length a little too much, but this wasn’t a complete dealbreaker.
It would’ve been easy for the brand to get lost in such an engaging, high-energy, and lengthy production. However, despite its relatively minimal screen time, spontaneous recall of the gum was more prevalent than for any individual scene. Presenting gum as the antidote – which subsequently enabled people to put their best foot forward when coming back together again – ensured memories were framed in a category-centric way.
Making the ad more distinctively for Extra came courtesy of the packaging, which served as an important cue. More broadly, the ad benefited from consistent themes such as the romantic music, intimacy, and general light-heartedness – which have all featured in previous campaigns. This ensured a good fit with Extra and created impressions which were unique to the brand.
Recognizing that people are already familiar with the functional benefits associated with chewing gum provides Extra with the flexibility to instead focus on developing more emotional connections. So, while the gum’s ‘freshness’ was still communicated, it was the associations of Extra being a ‘fun brand’ and having a ‘sense of humor’ that were the key take-outs.
As a result, while viewers weren’t given a lot of new or credible information about Extra gum, the brand was still able to differentiate itself from competitors through a highly relevant emotional appeal and memorable creativity – culminating in strong predisposition.
It would be easy to look at an ad like this and suggest the brand should be made more obvious, and that in the absence of a ‘unique’ benefit it risks falling into the trap of doing a category – rather than brand – job. While these can sometimes be fair points, concerns like this always need to be considered in the broader context of an ad’s performance.
‘For When It’s Time’ created considerable emotional attachment to the Extra brand through its unique and amusing storyline, and to shoehorn more overt ‘product’ messages would likely detract from what makes it so strong in the first place.
By connecting to a (recent) universal human truth of prolonged distance and loss of routine, the ad successfully engaged and moved viewers. This provides a great example of how the reinforcement of emotional associations – with a sprinkling of humor on top – can often be the most effective path to great advertising.
We were supported by market research technology platform Cint to collect data from respondents in the UK.