Many are looking for some sweetness today. Ben & Jerry's is pretty good at that.
Following the surprising—and for many, worrying—results of the U.S. presidential election, have a look at the brand's "One Sweet World," a soft-serve story (from agency Nice and Serious) about a troubled town called Coneville.
In Coneville, angry lemons have gathered to support a divisive member of their kind. His leafy toupée is swept, not so artfully, to the side. (Subtle.) Things take a turn for the worse when a single cherry, clutching a sign that reads "We taste sweeter together," attracts notice in the hostile crowd.
You know where this is going. But for the discouraged and distraught, the ending can perhaps be a balm from a brand that's always been a friend to liberal values.
While it's generally a bad idea for brands to weigh in politically, Ben & Jerry's has never made a secret of its beliefs and has a particular gift for it. In 2009, it fêted the legalization of gay marriage in its home state of Vermont with the release of Hubby Hubby, a supportive rename of its Chubby Hubby ice cream. And it's often expressed support for marijuana legalization, sometimes subtly or overtly.
But even for Ben & Jerry's, it's tricky to take a stance in an atmosphere that feels like a major lose for those same liberal values. The spot was made before Nov. 8, obviously, but was clearly informed by the political atmosphere of the past 18 months. The heckling of that cherry is a gentle illustration of what we too often saw over the course of this campaign.
Just days ago, President-elect Trump threw a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy out of one of his rallies. Less than a month prior, a black protester experienced the same treatment. (Contrast that with outgoing President Obama, who chided his own supporters for attempting to subject a pro-Trump attendee to the same treatment.)
Are your teeth hurting yet? That's only one example of how hard this sweet film works to relate itself to reality. Our dejected cherry endures bad treatment from lemons with signs that read "Zest is best." A strawberry scurries by with obvious plans to abandon its sour environment. TV programs, with angry lemons in hard hats and sad swirly cookies, read, "Stop cookies stealing our dough."
Later, in a place bluntly labeled Rosa Park, a female raspberry is bullied by two lemony toughs.
Our cherry drops onto a bench, but almost immediately cowers at the sight of an approaching lemon. Whatever he expected doesn't happen. This lemon is kind; he removes a white earbud and shares it (Apple will be pleased), creating the perfect opportunity for a passing coffee bean to take a pic and share a hopeful social media message.
It's on social that the rest of this story plays out, with a happier narrative than anyone dared to hope. Coneville does, indeed, get better.
There's a lot we can say about "One Sweet World." It's heavy-handed. It's not really what we want to hear right now. And the sight of all those happy social posts, ending the spot on a warm note, is also a bitter reminder of the feedback loop we built around ourselves, producing a false sense of security. For many, it was social media that drove the sense there were no real stakes here. (Or perhaps the opposite.)
We know. But everyone is tired. So when this ad ends with diverse jubilee, confetti, a pan toward a branded sun and the tagline "We don't live in a one-flavor world," there's not much else to do but accept its sincerity, however half-heartedly.
It's treacly, but it's a truth. The world has changed dramatically in the past decade. And as the mood turns protectionist, here and elsewhere, it's a critical time to demonstrate how important openness and acceptance are to us—and that there's still lemonade to be made out of however sour things feel.
Client: Ben & Jerry's
Agency: Nice and Serious
Creative Director: Tom Tapper
Creative: Christopher Ross-Kellman
Animation Director: Luke Marsh
Producers: Mutsa Marau, Segolene Meheust
Copywriters: Tom Tapper, Gleb Toropov, Christopher Ross-Kellman
2D Design / Concept Art: Luke Marsh
3D Design / Modeling: Guillaume Le Roux
Character Modeling / Animation: Kilogramme
Texture / Render: Thom Haig, Chris Shaw
Storyboard: Marylou Faure
Composer: Ben Cocks
Producer: Max De Lucia / Adelphoi Music
Music House: Adelphoi Music
Sound Design / Mix: Andrew Sherriff