Skoda, Fallon Make Striking the Right Tone Look Like a Piece of Cake

Agency Helps Czech Automaker Become 'Manufacturer of Happy Drivers'

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In the face of a changing media and advertising climate, brand keepers have explored an array of emerging platforms and techniques to foster more meaningful communications -- making hay out of consumers' innate desire to share and connect with social media, optimizing search-engine tactics, exploiting technologies that create ever-narrower addressability and wider consumer choice, and anticipating place shifting with mobile applications. So where do we go from here?
Skoda's Fabia, painstakingly constructed out of edible ingredients.
Skoda's Fabia, painstakingly constructed out of edible ingredients.
One word: cake.

Someone wrote something once about brands being objects of love. Well, if there's a more universally beloved (PG-rated) force than cake, I don't know it. Fallon London recently harnessed the strange, can't-look-away power of cake in an ad for Skoda Auto wherein the new Fabia is rendered in spongy, frosting-coated goodness. Working in a flour, egg, sugar and cream medium, the shop has done for small cars what its "Balls" (for Sony Bravia) did for color TVs.

And this is no vaguely vehicle-shaped cake -- every last sheet-metal panel, fan belt and tire tread on the new super-mini car is crafted out of cake and related dessert species (down to a tank of syrup fuel). Director Chris Palmer of Gorgeous masterminded the painstaking manufacturing process with a team of bakers, model makers/effects artists and "home economists" (I didn't think they had those anymore), who are shown in the ad building the car literally from scratch. As the spot opens, eggs are cracked, orange peels grated and batter battered in a mixer and poured into pans; the chassis rises out of stacks of rectangular cakes mortared with butter cream; the outer body is molded from panels of crispies and chocolate. The agency, of course, has captured the entire spectacle in a documentary posted at skoda.co.uk.

One hates to sully the joy of cake by pointing out its brand relevance, but not just anyone can throw a slab of it in an ad and expect it to work. The "Baking of," for example, is executed in an appropriately sweet, but not cloying manner -- Palmer kept just enough industrial gravity in the proceedings. Cake also actually sort of makes sense for Skoda in that the brand can credibly do happy. One of the world's oldest car brands, the Czech automaker was formerly and famously sort of an object of ridicule for its Eastern Bloc reputation. Fallon had leveraged that fact in a wildly successful campaign that made sport of Skoda's clown-car status. But things have changed, and the brand of late has earned reviews and an array of customer-satisfaction awards that would do any automaker proud.

So, Fallon created a new brand line for Skoda -- the company officially became the "Manufacturer of Happy Drivers." The line was launched with another cuddly ad, "Giggle," for the automaker's Roomster MPV, in which the sounds of an assembly line are replaced with human vocalizations of delight (if you don't crack a smile at this one, you are one dark sumbitch). While agency creatives could have hit the performance ratings hard in the campaign, they chose to create warm feelings for the brand instead. Creatives John Allison and Chris Bovill continued the tone for the Fabia, which is deemed in the ad "full of lovely stuff."

"Instead of telling people that Skoda wins awards by being the best at making customers happy, we wanted to make people feel happy," says Bovill. But the strategic underpinnings of "Baking" are overshadowed by the brilliance of the creative process. Bovill explains: "We were in a coffee shop. I bought John a bit of cake and looked at it and said, 'Well that's lovely, isn't it?' We're big fans of cake -- and who isn't?" Who indeed?

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and AdCritic.com. E-mail your big ideas to her at tiezzi@crain.com.
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