Flipping For Snickers

BBDO, New York
Executive creative director
Eric Silver
Dan Kelleher
Jim Lemaitre
Agency producer
Andy Wilcox
Production company
VFX supervisor
Angus Kneale, The Mill
Edit house
MacKenzie Cutler

OK, pay attention: A man is sitting in his living room when he eats a Snickers. The burst of energy makes him help a friend move, and when he yells in pain after a couch falls on him, a talent scout hears his voice and signs him to be part of a boy band, “The Residents.” When people mishear the band’s name, they mistakenly elect him president—all thanks to a Snickers bar.

Did you get all that? What could be the plot of a two-hour movie is stuffed into a 60-second spot, one of three new ads by BBDO that begin breaking today and introduce a new tagline for the Masterfoods brand, “Make it happen with Snickers.”

The two other spots in the campaign follow similarly outlandish twists and turns. In one, a man eats a Snickers, tunes into a late-night talk show, wins a trip, visits a history museum and helps out a football star whose team ends up changing its name to “the Freds” after the guy. In the third spot, a man eats a Snickers Cruncher, goes on a jog, buys a bird, becomes a hairdresser, invents an environmentally clean car and becomes a national hero. All action is chronicled by a voiceover. The point? A lot can happen when you eat a Snickers.

“Make it happen with Snickers” replaces “Hungry? Why wait?”—the tagline created by BBDO in its first campaign for the brand in 1996. (One ad from March 2003 with that tag showed a man lounging on a couch, yelling “Help!” when he couldn’t find the remote.) The budget was undisclosed, but Snickers spent about $80 million on advertising in 2003, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

“We wanted to play up the angle of ‘Snickers is yours to do with it as you want,’ ” says Jeffrey Moran, a Snickers rep. “It’s always been about hunger satisfaction. Now it’s about how you use the product to get your satisfaction.” Also, with the introduction of Snickers Marathon as energy bars proliferate in the marketplace, the client wanted to focus on Snicker’s energy benefits.

“Because of the peanuts inside, Snickers was an early energy bar, but we didn’t work against that for many years,” Moran said.

“The brief was that Snickers keeps you going,” adds Eric Silver, executive creative director at the New York shop. “The old strategy was more about stopping hunger, and this one is about keeping you going and helping you stay on the go.”

“I know it sounds boring, but the idea comes from the brief,” says Dan Kelleher, associate creative director and copywriter on the spots. “We just took the idea of ‘Snickers helps you go’ to the extreme. If you have a Snickers and it lets you keep doing what you want to do, maybe that snowballs into something bigger, and continues to snowball.”

With that idea in mind, Kelleher and fellow copywriter Jim Lemaitre jotted down 50 scripts and narrowed that number to seven to present to the client, which approved three (scripts not chosen for this round, but which might be made in the future, involve someone becoming the emperor of Japan and someone winning a Nobel prize).

“Each commercial is really a collection of stories rather than centering on one gag, which is a fresh idea born out of the strategy,” Silver adds.

Asked whether the spots might be too jam-packed, Silver, who joined BBDO in 2003, responds, “That was the risk the agency and client were willing to take. It could have ended up that way.” One reason it didn’t, according to Silver, was the unique way of transitioning from scene to scene that was the brainstorm of Filip Engström, part of the 10-person Swedish directing collective Stylewar. Inspired by old-fashioned theater transitions between sets, which used pulleys and rotating stages, the director pitched a way to transition between the scenes in the spots by flipping floors and opening up walls, so it seems like everything happens on one giant set. (In reality, there were more than 10 sets, as well as outdoor locations, all shot in Capetown, South Africa, to save on expenses, Silver says.)

Engström’s approach “was a great way to incorporate so many different scenes and events in the commercial in a really smooth but visually interesting way,” adds Kelleher.

MacKenzie Cutler editor Jun Diaz and Mill New York special effects supervisor Angus Kneale were present during the shoot and collaborated with Engström and the creatives to make sure as much of the effects as possible were done in camera, and the shoot went off without a hitch. The biggest obstacles were “getting the timing right and getting the walls to move correctly,” Silver says.

In the end, the manic speed of the spots mirrors the message, according to Silver.

“When you’re done watching the commercial,” he says, “you’re clearly communicating the idea of staying on the go, literally with the energy of the spot.”