In 2013, RXBar’s founders had a simple proposition.
“We called bullshit on protein bars,” said Peter Rahal, the company’s CEO. “Everything [was] either hippie and happy—and then, the other side of the spectrum was meathead muscle and extreme performance.”
The brand’s backstory is fascinating and entertaining (this interview is worth a watch), as Rahal and company set out to make a simple protein bar that countered the range of bars on the market that contained a bunch of ingredients. In fact, no B.S. has been part of the brand since its inception—even if the product’s earlier package design, created by Rahal on PowerPoint, deserves a little bit of grief. The current design launched at the end of 2015—and the brand stands out in a sea of sameness, boldly listing the product’s minimal, whole ingredients like egg whites, peanuts, almonds, cashews and dates.
“Most bars have a playbook,” noted Rahal. “It’s logo, appetite appeal—so a picture of a coconut or cookie—and then your claims and master claim statement of identity. This is a very conventional, orthodox design architecture and to stand out, we had to do something and take a risk.”
It’s a chance that has seemed to pay off. In fact, RXBar, after only being in a cluttered bar market for four years, was acquired by Kellogg’s last fall for a reported $600 million. Going even farther, and armed with some well-earned swagger, the brand, which built its following in CrossFit gyms as opposed to big retail, recently launched a fun new campaign starring rapper and actor Ice-T.
With an assist from Wieden+Kennedy Portland, the 15-second online spots are pure, quick-hit entertainment, with the star popping out of an RXBar door deadpanning the snappy, simple creative—no B.S. Whether it’s saying nothing actually happens in the commercial, being honest about interrupting your favorite show or merely stating that he’s a star, the casting is dead-on.
“It always had to be [Ice-T],” said Charlie Hart, RXBar’s director of masterbrand. “It felt so right, we didn’t even explore other options.”
On the surface, Ice-T seems an irrational choice until digging a little deeper, with Hart noting that the star’s no-nonsense style not only fits the brand but bridges the gap between generations. Some saw him back in the day on stage while others got to know him on the small screen through Law & Order SVU.
The work that also includes digital and out-of-home has a decidedly different feel from the other bars in the category. The brand’s Chicago roots (the company is technically called the Chicago Bar Co.) may play a part in the approach. Similarly to the city’s sensibilities, the spots are unapologetic with a healthy dose of wit that lets anyone in on the joke.
“When we looked at the whole campaign, what we’re trying to do is be aggressively simple and strip out all the gimmicks,” said Hart. “He embodied that perfectly.”
From here, both Hart and Rahal are excited about the campaign, running through October, making their competitors uncomfortable and see it as a sign of something working.
“Every great brand polarizes to some degree,” said Rahal. “[Without that], you’re not going to be remembered.”
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy Portland
Executive Creative Directors: Eric Baldwin, Jason Bagley
Creative Directors: Micah Walker
Copywriter: Bertie Scrase, Jonathan Marshall
Art Director: Christen Brestrup, Helen Rhodes
Group Strategy Director: Bruno Frankel
Strategy: Reid Schilperoort
Producer: Julie Gursha
Associate Producer: Candice Harbour
Head of Production: Mike Davidson, Matt Hunnicutt
Brand Management: Nick Larkin, Corey Woodson, David Hughes
Head of Business Affairs: Amber Lavender
Traffic Manager: Maggie Harasyn
Creative Operations Manager: Lauren Walker
Design Operations Manager: Simone Takasaki
Design Lead: Brad Simon
Comms Planning: Emily Graham, Justin Bradley, Daniel Sheniak
Production Company: Anonymous Content
Director: Tim Godsall
Line Producer: Brady Van Hult
Director of Photography: Tim Hudson
Editorial, VFX and Mix Company: Joint
Editor: Steve Sprinkel
Assistant Editors: Ian Devore, Mimi Bergen
Post Producer: Chris Girard
Post Executive Producer: Leslie Carthy
Lead Flame Artist: Pilon Lectez
Flame Assistant: Aurelien Patureau, Noah Poole
VFX Producer: Annie Rosick
VFX Executive Producer: Alex Thiesen
Colorist: Jasmine Vazquez
Mixer: Noah Woodburn, Natalie Huizenga