26 Mar 2015

The long-term value of communications: how Jaffa eclipsed Oreo

Joanna Cannon – Account Director at Spreckley

Like most of the rest of the country on the morning of Friday 20th March, the Spreckley team was eagerly awaiting the nation’s first annular solar eclipse since 1999, but much like its predecessor, the whole event was a damp squib for the majority of the population thanks to cloud cover. My 17-year-old self, studying Astronomy at college, was disappointed once again.

But even though weather forecasters warned us that it was likely to be a bit overcast and not to get too excited, the whole country, from public transport to social media, could not stop talking about the event. Even if most of the chatter was either complaining about the conditions (how British!) or making silly memes for Twitter, science yet again pulled another headline-making blinder.

Many brands got in on the conversation, not least Oreo, which had ploughed a significant amount of budget into national newspaper front covers, billboards and social media virals. And of course there was also The Daily Mirror – having just heard its circulation figures had surpassed those of The Sun, it cleverly re-created the eclipse using animation on a ClearChannel board in Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush in West London.

But there was one brand that spent nothing, yet still managed to get more people talking about it than were listening to Bonnie Tyler that morning, Oreo and The Daily Mirror put together – Jaffa Cakes.

It was the perfect demonstration of the long-term power of branding, advertising, and PR rolled into one, sprinkled with a healthy dose of the magic of nostalgia. Jaffa’s original ‘eclipse’ campaign in 1999 was probably one of the more irritating – most notably the TV ad featuring the Eastern European infant school teacher explaining what an eclipse was using a Jaffa Cake (if you’re old enough, all together now: “Full moon, half moon…total eclipse!”). PR agencies nowadays take a different approach.

Of course this time, rather than dominating the playground in 1999 (and the breaks in Corrie, dammit!), it took over social media and trended for the first time in years. The YouTube views for the ad skyrocketed. Even those not quite mature enough to remember it exactly were bombarded with homemade memes – enough to push the brand message and make you want a round, orangey delight that exact moment (gimme!).

Before, the only chance we had to talk about the eclipse was at work, university, college, school, or down the pub. Mostly, again, to complain about the clouds obscuring our views (it ruined my Astronomy project) – but the point still stands – how many other campaigns in living memory have seen such a resurgence without the brand having to lift a finger?

Without knowing the sales figures for that day and the ones that followed, or asking the general public about their feelings towards Jaffa that week, it would be difficult to judge how much of a positive effect that this digital PR magic trick had on the brand. However, I would bet my second year Astronomy project on sunspots that more people bought Jaffa Cakes on that day than any other so far in 2015.

Sore luck, Oreo.