MarkLives Ad of the Week with Oresti Patricios – when the product becomes the artwork

chappies one

chappies 2

This week’s Ad of the Week is once again about a campaign that moves outside of the mainstream, and engages with the community, using art and social media.

For anyone growing up in SA in the past six decades, there are several brands that have come to symbolise our very ‘South African-ness’ and which are as much a part of our fabric as braaivleis, Soweto, ‘koeksusters’ or Mandela.  To get a sense of what I mean, think of Springbok Radio, Marmite, Sunlight, Mrs Ball’s, Marie biscuits… and of course Chappies bubblegum.

When I was young, there was only one flavour of Chappies, and that was the juicy gum that was a sort of fruity pink. And yes, I mean pink as a flavour. You got four for a cent, and they came in a wrapper with an inspired gimmick – one that has endured for generations.

The attention grabber that the Chapelatcompany came up with from the start – in case you’re from a foreign country, or lived under the dictates of cruel and inhuman parents who didn’t allow you to buy bubblegum – was called ‘Did You Know?’ Inspired by the Springbok Radio show, ‘Three Wise Men’,Chappies’ defining device was the interesting and little-known facts that were printed on the inside of the distinctive bright yellow, blue and red striped wrapper. If you’ve ever unwrapped Chappies and pondered over the factoids contained on the wrapper you’ll know exactly what I’m on about.

The product has evolved a little over the decades, with new flavours like grape and watermelon having been introduced of late. But at its heart the product is still the same square of soft gum, and it’s still to be found in just about any café in SA. In fact, as many as 7 million Chappies are sold every day in this country.

Chappies’ market-share may be unassailable. No cheap foreign product is going to replace it, because it’s what we as South Africans know and trust. But the challenge nonetheless is to keep the brand fresh, relevant and associated with fun. So what Brand Manager Georgina Harpur and Ogilvy Cape Town came up with, was a simple, two-phased approach to drive interest in the brand and get people talking and participating in the Chappies’ brand.

In its first phase, the campaign started with a call to action using a MXit/Facebook competition that asked fans for new “Did You Know?” facts for Chappies’ wrappers. The response was almost overwhelming: over 50,000 submissions were received, all of which had to be appraised and fact-checked. All 170 of those who were selected won prizes – a year’s supply of their favourite bubble gum, and a framed copy of their ‘Did You Know’ on a Chappies’ wrapper.

OK, so a Facebook/MXit competition isn’t in and of itself a unique idea, although the execution was slick, and targeted at exactly the right demographic. But the factoid competition engaged the fans in the next phase, which was very much a street-level affair.

Phase 2 was the creation of “Edible Street Art” based on six of the “Did You Know” facts that Chappies received. Using the different coloured Chappies bubblegums (in their wrappers) as “tiles”, six mosaic designs were installed in Woodstock, Cape Town Station, Khayelitsha, Maboneng Precinct, Parkhurst and Greenside.

The largest artwork took 15 hours to set up, and only 15 minutes to disassemble, with the help of the public – which included just about any kid within a 5km radius!

What makes this campaign interesting, I believe, is the way in which the brand is integrated into the campaign. The product becomes the artwork, and the public is appropriately engaged in both sourcing the factoids which are a pivotal brand device, and then watch as these ‘Did You Knows’ came to life in public artwork.

There’s something inherently youthful about the Chappies brand, despite the fact that it has been around since the 1940’s. So what’s exciting about this campaign is how it embraces new mediums and out the box thinking to promote a message that’s both fun and creative. The end result: a fresh face for an old favourite, entrenching it as a truly South African brand. But what’s truly cool about the campaign was that it was about paying tribute to the people who buy and support the brand – as everyone who chomped on the artwork, after it was disassembled, can attest to.

Ad of the Week is published on MarkLives every Wednesday. See past selections here.
Oresti Patricios is the CEO of brand and reputation analysis company Ornico.

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