Politics provide punchline for topical Snickers spots

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Snickers' nimble advertising isn't going anywhere for a while.

The M&M/Mars brand's ongoing "Grab a Snickers" campaign was kicked off in September 1995 with a timely reference to the Buffalo Bills' attempt to win the Super Bowl. The strategy to tap into current events continues with the launch Oct. 9 of a new set of TV and radio spots that play off comedic themes relating to the current presidential race.

"What adds talk value to a campaign is adding something that's fresh, something that's currently in the public domain, and the election is the No. 1 news event every night," said Bob Gamgort, general manager of chocolate at M&M/Mars. "What we see time and time again is that tying back to a current event that's already in the mind of our target consumer really resonates well."

TRIVIAL ISSUES

The new 30-second TV spot, from BBDO Worldwide, New York, pokes fun at the media's focus on trivial issues surrounding the candidates. The spot features a young man walking into a voting booth and pulling the curtain to cast his vote for president. As he's deciding, the candidates appear on the voter's shoulders -- in the form of animated versions of their respective parties' donkey and elephant mascots -- to try to sway him by talking about the traits that are most played up about them in the news. The elephant (Gov. George W. Bush) mentions that his father and namesake is a former president with such pointless comments as "I look like my Dad," and "My Dad and I wear the same pants," while the donkey (Vice President Al Gore) retaliates with his own quips such as "I invented the Internet," "My father was a senator" and "Kiss me, I'm on TV!"

The spot concludes with the familiar Snickers refrain: "Not going anywhere for a while? Grab a Snickers." The TV commercial, along with two similarly themed radio spots set to air in 19 markets, will run through Nov. 5.

"When you run topical humor, its value is its limited shelf life: It's a three-week hit and then you move on, but you get a great buzz so it's absolutely worth it," Mr. Gamgort said.

FLEXIBILITY

The "Grab a Snickers" campaign has worked well for the brand, he said, especially because it is flexible enough to allow for a variety of different situations and locales including those that are extremely topical.

Snickers' sales totaled $305 million in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 13, according to Information Resources Inc. M&M/Mars spent $45 million in measured media against the brand in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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