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2007 Creativity Award Winner: Combos "Man Mom" Campaign

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TBWA/Chiat/Day pulled off another Masterfoods masterpiece with this campaign for Combos, a five-spot effort that marks the cheese-filled cracker tubes' first television advertising appearance in over a decade. The work redefines snack advertising like Skittles and Starburst have the candy category. Instead of the cartoon like spokes-characters that typically populate this advertising sector, this campaign stars the ambiguously gendered parental unit known as Man Mom, who serves Combos for dinner and just about everything else—in one spot, s/he offers it up as a remedy for one fever-stricken son. It doesn't matter that the execution is lo-fi and low-budget. The performances are spot-on, and the idea broke through enough to impress our judges and, oddly enough, make the strange snack food oddly appealing.

Q&A with TBWA/Chiat/Day/N.Y. CW Isaac Silverglate and AD Jeff Anderson

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Combos advertising? What task did the client charge you with?

Isaac Silverglate: Combos had not advertised in almost 15 years, so in many ways we were allowed to start thinking with a clean slate. The brief was: Combos is a snack that thinks it's a meal. And the target was your average guy 18-35. We started by watching focus group of guys discussing their eating habits, which basically consisted of eating whatever was edible within arms length. If it was filling and easy, they liked it.

How did you come up with the idea of Man Mom?

Jeff Anderson: Combos are hollow pretzel nuggets filled with a cheesy center. Since they taste remarkably like nachos or pizza, they're the ultimate guy food. This led us to: "Combos. What your mom would feed you if your mom were a man" and, subsequently, to the character Man Mom: a manly mother who embodies the campaign idea. Man Mom puts in the least amount of parental effort possible, including always feeding her sons Combos.

What were some of the more interesting challenges of the project, from coming up with the ideas, to writing the scripts, the execution/shooting of the work?

Silverglate: Once the campaign went into production, the biggest debate was over what Man Mom herself would look like. It was important to find the right balance between manliness and motherliness.

To you, what does the success of the campaign say about advertising/marketing?

Anderson: It shows that if you have a truthful insight, you can execute it relatively simply and cheaply and still have it work.

Is anything in store for Man Mom's future?

Silverglate: Man Mom is a creature of habit, so we can expect more of the same from her.

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