Keebler’s Ernie the Elf Returns Under New Management

The Ferrero Group acquired the cookie brand from Kellogg's last summer

Still of Keebler's new ad
Keebler's new ad campaign debuts today, and will appear on TV, paid digital and social channels. Keebler

In his first marketing campaign under Ferrara, part of The Ferrero Group, Ernie the Elf is here to spread the word about new and improved Keebler cookies.

These changes involve introducing more quality ingredients into its products, such as more real chocolate in its Chips Deluxe offering and more Madagascar vanilla in its Pecan sandies. A packaging redesign mentions these updates, too.

Last summer, The Ferrero Group, maker of Nutella, purchased the 167-year-old Keebler brand along with Famous Amos cookies from Kellogg’s in a deal worth $1.3 billion. As soon as the acquisition was complete, Keebler’s new owners got to work on refreshing the brand, according to Ryan Nolan, senior associate brand manager at Keebler.

In a few different 15-second spots created by Ferrero’s internal agency Pubbliregia, Ernie checks in on various families munching on cookies at home through a pair of binoculars from his socially distant Hollow Tree in the woods.

“The campaign was concepted and produced in spring,” said Nolan. “The sentiment associated with real families experiencing everyday moments together at home, while enjoying Keebler cookies, is certainly more valuable now than ever before.”

The campaign’s tagline is “Made with magic, loved by families.”

The campaign is scheduled to run on paid digital and social channels, along with TV networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. The brand is also experimenting with shoppable Hulu video ads through a partnership with Walmart.

Moving forward, Nolan said the aim is to return the Keebler brand to growth through investments in products with quality ingredients, improved packaging and better consumer communication.

Throughout the pandemic, Americans have been indulging in comfort food as they spend more time around the house. Retail sales of chocolate and ice cream, for instance, are both up compared to last year. Keebler is no exception—demand for its cookies has increased 55% since early March, according to the company.

Ernie will also play a big role in Keebler’s efforts to win over shoppers.

“While the brand will change to evolve over time, we also want to make sure the voice and personality of Ernie and the elves comes through in everything we do, as his character provides us a unique point of differentiation among other cookies in the category,” said Nolan.

Executing this strategy involves help from the brand’s new social agency, Day One Agency, which came aboard in May. Nolan added that together they intend to reimagine how a nostalgic brand such as Keebler can come to life in a modern, but familiar and relatable way.

“Our ultimate goal is to make Ernie famous all over again,” he said.

@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.