Everyone likes talking-food mascots. They're so full of joy and spirit and love for life. But as it turns out, they're still quite likable—maybe more so—when they're full of worry, angst and existential dread.
That's the case with Mel the MilkBite, the postmodern brand mascot created by Droga5 for Kraft's new MilkBite Milk & Granola Bars. Mel isn't your ordinary carefree literal embodiment of a product, confident in his identity and mission—a big jug of flavored drink mix, say, or a large colorful piece of candy. Like the MilkBites themselves, soft-spoken Mel is several things at once—part milk, part granola—and so he finds himself agonizing over his split identity. He's a tasty morsel stuck in a not-very-tasty existential crisis. And in Droga5's new campaign, he embarks on a journey from the refrigerated dairy case to the wider world, endeavoring to understand who he is—and what he's good for.
The first spots (see below) are amusingly crafted. Mel struggles with his confidence on a blind date, fleeing an attractive woman despite her confession that she's "kind of into" his unique characteristics. He asks his parents whether they ever stopped to think, before they so carelessly combined their ingredients, about how difficult his life would be. And he annoys his fellow book-club members when he dares to identify with a similarly tortured soul from Russian literature. Mel could easily have started off on a therapist's couch, and perhaps that's where he'd be if this were a single-spot campign. But Droga5 is blowing it out into a much wider effort centered on Facebook, where video diaries, musings, photos and videos from Mel will be unveiled over the next few months, inviting consumers to join him on his journey of self-discovery.
This isn't the first ad campaign with a mascot who's not wholeheartedly peppy. (Look at Knorr's Salty the salt shaker, created by DDB in Toronto, who's the Charlie Brown of advertising mascots—a pale, bald, lovable misfit.) But it's an interesting choice to use a conflicted character to pitch a possibly confusing product—to bake the confusion into the very mascot himself.
In a world still full of cheery mascots, Mel certainly stands out. And with the nice animation and voice work, and the great little scripted vignettes, this is one sad story you might enjoy hearing for some time to come.
Agency: Droga5, New York
Creative Chairman: David Droga
Executive Creative Directors: Ted Royer, Nik Studzinski
Head of Integrated Production: Sally-Ann Dale
ACD, Copywriter: Scott Ginsberg
ACD, Art Director: January Vernon
Creative Director: Neil Heymann
Interactive Producer: Jason Curtis
Executive Producer: Scott Chinn
Strategy: Tom Naughton
Account Director: Whitney Radia
Production Company: O Positive
Director: David Shane
Director of Photography: Eric Treml
Executive Producer: Marc Grill
Producer: Ken Licata
Designers: Ben Grube, Malin Ekman
Illustrator: Rich Greco
Developer: Mikael Emtinger
Art Director: Nick Schmidt
Copywriter: David Ma
Puppet Design and Fabrication: Jim Henson Creature Shop
Executive Producer: Jason Seck
Creative Supervisor: Jason Weber
Puppet Builders: Anney Ozar, Jim Krupa