Snickers ads grab the elusive 'big idea'

By Published on .

Advertiser: M&M/Mars
Agency: BBDO Worldwide, New York
Ad Review rating: 3 stars

The marlboro cowboy. The Energizer bunny. "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet." The annals of advertising record very few such enduring "big ideas," but soon you may add to the list, "Not going anywhere for a while? Grab a Snickers."

Barely a year old, the line is already the basis for wonderfully engaging advertising that spills over with brand personality. But as the campaign inexorably develops--and it will, over many years--the idea will be revealed to have far more than charm. It will have depth, scope and the endless power to surprise.

The latest pool of spots, from BBDO Worldwide, New York, use pro football settings for several hilarious variations on the central premise of being stuck someplace indefinitely. And, thanks substantially to sharp casting, direction and production by Bryan Buckley and Frank Todaro of @Radical.Media, the result is one belly laugh after another.

It all starts with a spot set in the locker room, where a gruff, crew-cut head coach announces, "Listen up. This year we gotta be a little more 'politically correct' with the team prayer. [He turns to a priest, standing behind him.] Hit it, Padre."

"Let us take this moment to look inside and reflect on our good fortune," the priest says, but before he can go on, the coach butts in--to introduce a second clergyman. "All right, Rabbi. Let's go."

"And may victory be with you," the rabbi says, before he too is cut off.

"Come on Shaman, let's move. [This time it's a Native American spiritualist, who utters one word, 'Minika.'] That was very touching. Come on, Bagwan."

Then, as the Indian mystic steps to the fore, the voice-over says, "Not going anywhere for a while? Grab a Snickers." Which one of the kneeling players does, as the Eastern Orthodox priest, black preacher, Hare Krishna et al. wait for their turns. "Stay in line," the coach says.

As the title card fills the frame, we hear the team chanting its mantra: "Ommmmmmmmmmm . . ."

As funny as this gentle satire of diversity fever is, it pales next to the one about the end-zone painter, an elderly Chiefs employee whom we see painstakingly reproducing the team logo beneath the goalposts. As he steps back finally to admire his work, a player walks up behind him.

"Hey, that's great," says the lineman, "but who are the Chefs?"

Yeah, he left out the "i," which is amusing, but his reaction is hilarious. "Great googily moogily!" he says. Then, consoling himself in a Snickers bar as he contemplates starting from scratch, the player tries to help.

"You spell it . . ." But the old guy just snarls "Yahhhh!" and takes another bite. Yahhhh. It's not even a word, and you have to hear it to appreciate it, but it's the best line in four spots.

The campaign, too, will have to unfold before it is fully appreciated. It may be taken as comedy for comedy's sake but beneath the jokes is a very serious selling proposition: what to eat when there's no access to real food.

Therein the big idea. So grab a Snickers and enjoy. This advertising isn't going away for a long, long time.

Correction: Recently in this space, a careless Ad Review staffer misidentified the J. Walter Thompson USA office that created the Office Depot campaign. The correct city is Chicago, and the offending party has been dealt with harshly.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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