Why Jolly Rancher and Anomaly Are Telling Frustrated Millennials to ‘Keep on Sucking!’

The Hershey hard candy finds an ownable silver lining

Some things in life unquestionably suck. Middle seats. Traffic jams. Rain delays. And young people, due to their limited means, are forced to put with even more things that suck. Student loans. Roommates. Shaky job prospects.

All of which led Jolly Rancher to the insight for its new campaign aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds. Yes, life can suck, the ads say. But Jolly Rancher candy can make those suckier moments a little less sucky—and at the same time, a little more sucky, given that this is, after all, a candy you suck on.

The gleefully juvenile campaign, created by Anomaly in New York, launched in early August and carries the tagline, "Keep on sucking!" And it's a rallying cry being sounded across social, digital, out-of-home and TV—exhorting millennials to keep on sucking the candy until frustrating moments suck a little less.

For the agency, the parallels between the candy itself and the target market's frustrations were pretty irresistible.

"Just as the candy is hard, life is also hard," says Anomaly creative director Johnny Dantonio. "And the same way you suck on the candy to enjoy that long-lasting flavor, you're going to have to get through some sucky scenarios in life. It was something we all nodded and chuckled at. So, we ran with it."

And so the ads, like the candy, are meant to offer a pleasant little break in a sometimes unpleasant world. "There's a really nice parallel there between what the product does for you and what the campaign does for you," Dantonio says.

Here are two of the TV spots:

And here are two pre-rolls:

To put the "Keep on sucking!" idea in motion, Anomaly took the five vector shapes of fruit found on the Jolly Rancher packaging—blue raspberry, apple, watermelon, cherry and grape—and brought them to life as animated characters, with help from artist Kevin Lyons. Those characters now appear in videos and images across the brand's social channels—often as real-time responses to consumers—as well as in paid ads.

By the middle of last week, the campaign had already produced a ton of executions—some 490 pieces of content in only 65 days. In addition to some TV and preroll spots that were scripted, the agency has been working in real time to identify things that suck and whip up pithy visual responses for social media—using what Dantonio describes as a kind of in-house animation studio that Anomaly has built.

Each morning, strategists at the agency deliver a report to the creatives about what people are complaining about in the world, and where they're complaining about it. From there, the creatives—working with the in-house illustrators and animators—can quickly churn out personalized bits of content.

"If someone is at the Yankees game and says, 'This rain delay sucks,' and tweets that, we have the ability to literally tap our illustrator on the shoulder and say, 'Draw a character sitting at a Yankees game in the rain,' and tweet it back to them, and say, 'Hey, just keep on sucking! Have a long-lasting Jolly Rancher,' " says Dantonio. "It's an interesting, geeky, fun, lighthearted way of saying, 'Yep, that really does suck, but at least there's candy.' "

Social is the "heartbeat" of the campaign, Dantonio says.

"Context and timing play a huge role, because we can be so topical," he says. "We're really blurring the lines between traditional, digital, social, broadcast. We have preroll that could be a TV spot that could be an Instagram post that could be a Vine that goes on Twitter. Anything we're doing, we're just being mindful of, Is it rooted in the insight? Is it a good idea? And where can it live? And what we're finding is, we can apply the thoughts and ideas and executions across multiple mediums."

Here are some Twitter posts:

To get the tone and feel right, the agency looked for inspiration to millennial favorites like fail culture, Adult Swim and Key & Peele. What's emerged in the campaign is a distinctive, relatable voice that the brand is excited about.

"The characters do a good job of letting the brand voice shine through. It gives us a brand persona," says Bill Blubaugh, senior director for the Jolly Rancher brand at Hershey. "If we're going to engage with people, they're going to want to know who we are. Even though [the animation is] two-dimensional, it's still quite breakthrough, I think."

Blubaugh calls the early engagement metrics for the campaign "incredibly encouraging, some of the best we've seen. It's still very early, but we're very optimistic about the way the content is being served up to folks in a very relevant way."

It's also, crucially, an ownable idea—in a category whose advertising creative has improved dramatically over the past decade.

"We really like this idea of sucking," Blubaugh says. "It's our point of difference in the category. Most of our competitors, you chew. Jolly Rancher truly is a candy you suck. And that makes the connection work. 'Hey, these sucky moments, embrace them. Jolly Rancher is there to make them a bit less sucky. Or more sucky.' "

The brand has added some 42,000 Facebook likes in just a few weeks (bringing the total to 1.8 million) and built an Instagram following of over 6,000 out of practically nothing. And the campaign is heading out-of-home, too, with ads at specific colleges around the country—in cities including Boston, Austin, Ann Arbor, State College, Madison, Columbus, Gainesville and Tucson—with both general and highly customized messaging.

"Keep on sucking!" certainly is a provocative line. But the brand committed to it full on, not least because it ties back so directly to the product.

"If you're going to go for this cheeky humor, just go for it. Don't go halfway, because that's a recipe for disaster," Dantonio says. "Also, it gives us this North Star that we're always trying to get back to. When your strategy is 'Keep on sucking,' it's easy to get back to the product very quickly, over and over."

Finally, below are some Instagram posts. Also check out the brand on Facebook.

 

Stop what you're doing! An app wants to tell you something! #PushNotificationsSuck #JollyRancher #KeepOnSucking

A video posted by Jolly Rancher (@jollyrancher) on

 

Enjoy bold, long-lasting flavor. #Watermelon #JollyRancher #KeepOnSucking

A photo posted by Jolly Rancher (@jollyrancher) on

 

It #AintAboutTheMoney, it's about the flavor. #SeasonPremiere #JollyRancher

A photo posted by Jolly Rancher (@jollyrancher) on

 

Sucks when your tattoo story is pretty obvious. #NationalTattooStoryDay #JollyRancher #KeepOnSucking

A photo posted by Jolly Rancher (@jollyrancher) on

 

Good news: your team doesn't suck — yet. #FootballOpeningDay #Kickoff2015 #Football #JollyRancher

A video posted by Jolly Rancher (@jollyrancher) on