According to a study by The Works, Walkers authored the most effective ad campaign of April, winning over the public through “unspoken behavior” and scoring high on long-term and short-term effectiveness.
Are you a proponent of the crunchy sandwich, or does the thought of mixing crunchy and soft textures make you feel slightly queasy? Walkers believes the debate has a place, and by entering it, the brand has produced the most effective April ad in terms of public reaction.
The 60-second television spot mockingly features a series of humorous vignettes illustrating the polar debate, in which crunchy sandwich lovers meet reactions of annoyance, disgust and outrage.
Walkers invested more than £3 million in the “CrispIN or CrispOUT” campaign, deploying it on television, social media and PR. The brand partnered with sandwich chain Subway, which also made the campaign its priority in April and May. Subway allocated its own media budget, specifically for outdoor advertising.
According to The Works, a monthly study based on Kantar Marketplace data, Walkers ads hit the 98th percentile for expressiveness — the degree to which ads evoke any emotion on people’s faces as they watch the ads moment by moment. In other words, it ranked in the top 3 percent of all ads in the U.K. on this measure.
“We know it’s important in terms of effectiveness because our brains are programmed to pay attention to things that make us feel something,” explains Lynn Deason, head of creative at Kantar UK.
The Works study, produced in conjunction with Marketing Week and the Advertising Association’s Trust Working Group, asks 750 consumers what they think of the top five TV ads of April — 150 consumers per ad.
The study looked at the critical factors that have been shown to determine whether an ad will be effective in the short term and whether it will contribute to a brand’s success in the long term.
Kantar also used face coding with EmotionAI to find out how consumers interacted emotionally with each ad, determining the ability of the ad to elicit an emotional response as well as the nature of that emotion.
CrispIN or CrispOUT ranked in the top 2% of ads for eliciting a smile from viewers and in the top 21% for viewer enjoyment.
But ads don’t just entertain. Crucially, it is also closely tied to the Walkers brand. The campaign ranked in the top 6% for “appeal” – the ability of an ad to attract attention and create brand-related memories. According to Deason, this is an “incredibly strong” result.
“We know it plays a very important role in determining how effective an ad will be in the short and long term,” she adds.
The ad also ranked in the top 25 percent of all ads in the U.K. for generating a sense of “love” and brand affinity, which is a factor in ad effectiveness, especially in the long term.
At the same time, the ads were found to be highly effective in the short term. Even though the ad ranked only ninth in terms of persuasiveness, Kantar believes it has a 74% chance of making a sale because it ranks 90th in terms of awareness.
“This is a brilliant demonstration of how creativity and originality can translate human thought into distinctive advertising that attracts attention in a very funny, engaging and memorable way,” says Deason.
“Our human brains are lazy, and people rarely make the mental effort to understand what’s going on in advertising. This is often a problem with vignette-style ads, but in this case it is not a barrier to success. The idea is laid out very clearly from the beginning, and each subsequent scene intuitively and humorously reinforces the same concept.”
When you combine the idea of nostalgia with something that generates universal conversation and debate, there’s something to it.
Deason also points to the nostalgic effect of ads that evoke memories of childhood, an emotion she says consumers look for in times of crisis (such as after a national pandemic).
In response to the ads, one study participant said: “I used to do this a lot – chips in sarnies – but I haven’t done it in a while. I might start again with Walkers Salt and Vinegar.”
The idea for the film could have occurred to any chip brand, Deason notes, but while the ad is a further departure from Walkers’ previous “Too Good to Share” campaign, the concept of irresistibility, which is central to the idea, still remains.
“Thus, the brand retains a central role in the ad in a very authentic Walkers manner. This, as well as the integration of recognized brand attributes from the beginning, helps people easily recognize and remember which brand the ad is about,” she says.
“Even though the ad doesn’t make the brand feel particularly different from others, this very pleasing and emotionally resonant idea is very effective in building affection and love for Walkers.”
Consumer-centric vs. product-centric
According to Fernando Kahane, senior director of marketing for Walkers, the idea for the campaign stemmed from the recognition that lunch is an “important event” for chips: about 40% of chip consumption in the UK is at noon. At the same time, the sandwich is the number one lunchtime meal.
So the goal of the business was to make sure that when people thought of sandwiches, they thought of Walkers chips. “We wanted to create this interconnected mental availability between the two,” Kahane explains.
So the brand decided to focus on the “very British” creation of crunchy sandwiches. After talking to consumers, the research team found that the way people talked about the national delicacy was “emotional” and evoked nostalgic feelings. But it was also polarizing-the “marmite dilemma.”
“When you combine the idea of nostalgia with something that generates universal conversation and debate, there’s something about it,” he adds.
“It’s a brilliant demonstration of how creativity and originality can translate human understanding into original advertising.
But beyond nostalgia, Walkers found that indulging in a crunchy sandwich is an “unspoken behavior.” Qualitative research showed that people only eat their crispy sandwich at home because in public they fear judgment. This finding was supported by quantitative research. Nearly one in five people eat their crispy sandwich secretly, and 30 percent say they only eat it at home.
“These studies touch on nostalgic feelings, they touch on something controversial, but they also touch on unspoken behavior and fear of judgment,” Kahane says. “That feeling that people can’t exercise their right to eat a crusty sandwich is what spawned the whole campaign. It’s an ad based on real consumer behavior.”
Kahane adds that Walkers plans to double down on research-based campaigns in the future, focusing on “innovative insights” that look beneath basic observations, on “unspoken truths and behaviors” that consumers can relate to, creating “consumer-centric” rather than “product-centric” campaigns.
“We put a lot of effort into getting to the core and understanding what lies beneath that core, through which we can amplify the emotionality of our narrative,” he says.
“If we just stopped at superficial information about crispy sandwiches, we wouldn’t get to this commercial. We had to get into the nuances that would charge this ad with emotion and make people relate to it differently.” Sure, the product plays a role, but the stories are about the people, not the chips.”