The 10 most advertised snack brands have ramped up spend on traditional ad space by 37.5% in the past year [Ebiquity 52 w/e 30 November 2014], helping to drive 2.6% market growth on volumes up 1% [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 9 November 2014].

This article is part of our Bagged Snacks Digital Feature 2015.

The biggest spenders caused a stir for different reasons, with Pringles coming under fire from critics for the ‘antiquated sexism’ of an ad to mark the World Cup as Walkers raised eyebrows with the relaunch of its Do Us a Flavour competition, in which shoppers are asked to pitch their own flavour creations to the brand.

Here’s our pick of the most creative (and controversial) snack ads from the past year…

Walkers: Tweet to Eat

Less than 1% of Walkers’ budget has gone on outside ads. But if this example is anything to go by, it was money well spent. In support of the relaunch of its Do Us a Flavour competition, the brand installed three digital vending machines across London in a bid to get commuters tweeting about the final six flavours in the running.  

Walkers claims the vending machines, featuring a screen showing footage of Gary Lineker filmed to look like the brand ambassador was trapped inside the machine, were the world’s first Twitter enabled devices of their kind. Commuters were given a free packet of Walkers by a virtual Gary Lineker in return for tweeting about the brand.

The competition mustered 1.2 million entries and Pulled Pork was crowned winner. But despite the creativity of the ads to support the push (David Walliams and chef Marco Pierre White featured in ads), the contest didn’t result in the sales spike Walkers saw following its 2008 launch. Value sales of standard Walkers are down 3.1%, on volumes down 1.5% [IRI 52 w/e 6 December 2014].

McCoys: Ultimate

Grrrrr. McCoys has targeted its core consumer with pinpoint precision with this ad to trumpet its premium, ‘twice flavoured’ variant Ultimate. You can’t get much blokier than a man standing in front of a barbecue channelling his inner man (a tiger, of course), after all.

But for all the ad’s creativity and charm, it seems McCoys is fighting an uphill struggle. Ridged crisps are in decline as mainstream players chase the health conscious with less overtly masculine marketing and brands traditionally marketed as man snacks are facing growing competition from meat snacks and the new breed of protein enriched offerings.

According to IRI, McCoys has suffered a 0.3% dip in value sales in the past year [52 w/e 7 December 2014] on volumes down 6%. Given the challenges the brand has faced, it seems the hefty increase in the brand’s ad spend hasn’t been entirely wasted.  

Pringles: Pringoooals!

Is this the most sexist ad ever made? That’s what many of its critics claimed after Pringles’ new brand owner Kellogg’s aired this ad to drum up sales during last summer’s World Cup. The brand was accused of ‘antiquated sexism’ and ‘misogyny’ on Twitter as critics voiced their disgust alongside the hashtag #everydaysexism.

Wherever you stand on the sexism debate, it seems undeniable that Pringles – rebranded as Pringoooals for the tournament – hit the back of the net when it came to appealing to its target consumer and associating the brand with the occasion it was going for: the lads’ get together to watch the footy.

And it appears snackers could sympathise with the ad’s protagonist, a man whose football pleasure was interrupted by a call from his girlfriend. While Pringles’ return to growth after a prolonged period of decline can’t all be put down to the brand’s 21.4% hike in ad spend, it can’t have helped. Value sales are up 4.3% on volumes up 6% [IRI].  

Next up: Protein brands muscle in on mainstream