Weetabix, a staple of the U.K. breakfast table, entered American hands this week with its acquisition by Post Holdings, maker of Honey Bunches of Oats and Raisin Bran, for $1.76 billion.
Weetabix has been majority-owned by China's Bright Food since 2012, and prior to that by U.K.-based private equity firm Lion Capital, after passing out of family ownership in 2004. (Although thought of as quintessentially British, Weetabix was in fact invented in Australia but has been made in the U.K. since 1932.)
Despite changing hands several times, Weetabix has remained one of the U.K.'s most famous brands, portrayed through memorable ad campaigns by a succession of top London creative shops.
Perhaps the most iconic campaign for the brand ran in the 1980s, when Weetabix was promoted by the "Neet Weet Gang," a gang of skinhead-like characters based on the Weetabix biscuits. The characters -- named Bixie, Dunk, Brains, Brian and Crunch -- appeared on Weetabix packs and "Dunk" was voiced by Bob Hoskins. Created by agency Allen, Brady & Marsh, the characters, and their tagline -- you'll eat Weetabix "if you know what's good for you" -- have gone down in British advertising history.
In the 1990s, Lowe Howard-Spink held the account and created several humorous ads, including a spot in which a driving instructor sings (to the tune of "I Will Survive") about how he survives the terrifying driving of his pupils thanks to his morning Weetabix.
Another ad by Lowe showed Robin Hood turning and fleeing from the Sheriff of Nottingham after he sees him eating Weetabix.
This theme of Weetabix giving people energy to survive anything, along with superhuman powers, has persisted in the brand's marketing. In 2009, an epic ad directed by Ringan Ledwidge for then-Weetabix agency WCRS portrayed a jockey who completes a race on foot after his horse falls -- ending in the tagline "Someone's had their Weetabix."
Weetabix appointed its current agency BBH in 2011. One of BBH's first spots starred a child dancer eating chocolate Weetabix and then busting some killer moves in her bedroom with a backing group of teddy bears. Directed by The Daniels, the ad aired during "The X-Factor" and was an instant social media hit.
Perhaps harking back to the Neet Weet Gang, the brand again turned its cereal into characters with a 2015 campaign through BBH named "Weet-a-buddies." This time, it encouraged kids to eat more fruit with their cereal by adding different fruity toppings to make faces on the oval biscuits.
Later that year, a spot celebrated the idea that our bodies are incredible, so we need to think about what we put in them. The film featured looped animated GIF-like clips of people of all ages using their incredible bodies, from a little girl sprinting up steps with a cello to older ladies running into the sea.
BBH's most recent ad, released in March 2017, returns to a more familiar theme, with a re-telling of "Jack and the Beanstalk," in which Jack scares off the giant after telling him he's had his Weetabix.