Cadbury advert still

As we review a year of fmcg advertising, it’s hard to pick an outright winner. But credit must go to Cadbury and agency VCCP, who together won the prestigious IPA Effectiveness Grand Prix for 2022 for their ‘Glass and a Half in Everyone’ campaign. The push is credited with reversing a declining brand, raising penetration of Dairy Milk to record levels and boosting revenue by £261m over the four years it’s been running.

But what makes these ads so effective? The IPA centres on the idea of generosity both in the stories told by the ads and in the purpose-driven initiatives surrounding them. There’s no doubt ‘Glass and a Half in Everyone’ has been strategically brilliant. We’d argue, though, that the ads are also exceptional in their execution.

The ‘Glass and a Half’ ads look and feel like nothing else on television or social media. Their quiet intimacy is a 180-degree turn from the busy, needy, noisy vibe of most modern advertising. Seeing a Cadbury spot in an ad break full of hammering beats, rapid-fire editing and screaming text is like hearing a folk song at a rave. That shift in tone has helped Cadbury stand out and left competitors struggling to catch up.

Importantly, unlike some award-winning ads, ordinary audiences love them. No less than six of the ads scored the top, five-star score on System1’s Test Your Ad platform. This test is based on positive emotional response and brand recognition and Cadbury smashes scores in both categories – only 1% of ads achieve a five-star rating, and to do it five times is almost unheard of.

Looking at those six ads helps crystalise exactly what Cadbury and VCCP got so right with this campaign and why their unique approach works.

  1. ‘Mum’s Birthday’ (2018)

‘Mum’s Birthday’ was one of the first ‘Glass and a Half in Everyone’ ads and sets the tone. No voiceover, no music. Slow, mostly wordless action in a very everyday setting. The emphasis is all on the story, and the relationship between our main characters: the girl buying chocolate for her mum, and the shopkeeper who accepts the very unusual currency with which she’s paying.

This ‘between-ness’ is one of the elements that Orlando Wood highlights in his book Look Out as particularly effective at attracting “broad-beam” attention, which is so important for brand building. Ads that focus on human interaction – especially non-verbal communication – are better than average at getting attention and building positive emotion.

  1. ‘Secret Santa’ (2018-2021)

Christmas ads are generally loud, bright, full of music and fun. It takes a bold brand to do something different. Cadbury’s long-running Secret Santa campaign, showing people hiding chocolate for colleagues, family members and friends, has a unique tone for a festive season ad.

Like the other ‘Glass and a Half in Everyone’ ads, this one is quiet, with no music or extra sound, and naturally lit. This naturalistic feel isn’t a distinctive asset like the Dairy Milk logo or the colour purple, but it is something that means Cadbury ads feel like nothing else around them – especially at the busiest time of the year, ad-wise. Having a strong sense of place is another way to get that crucial broad-beam, right-brain attention.

  1. ‘Fence’ (2019)

‘Fence’ stars two boys and their elderly neighbour, with a relationship that’s initially a bit prickly due to the boys’ habit of kicking their ball into the old man’s garden. They thank him for his patience with some chocolate, putting a smile on his face (and the audience’s). ‘Fence’ is an example of where the generosity-driven storytelling of the VCCP and Cadbury campaign meets the other strand, that of brand purpose, with the ad initially working as an awareness-raiser for loneliness in old age.

A good story often has resonance in more than one time and place, though. ‘Fence’ also worked brilliantly when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the loneliness of elderly people in lockdown became a major concern. It was one of the pre-pandemic ads that scored just as well for viewers during the Covid era.

  1. ‘Cupboard Raiders’ (2019)

Storytelling is at the centre of the Cadbury campaign – most of its top-scoring ads are beautifully crafted short stories about generosity. ‘Cupboard Raiders’ is no exception – a young lad is seen sneaking some Cadbury Fingers biscuits out of the cupboard, with the twist being he’s smuggled them into school to share with a mate. As with all the ads, great acting from the child performers brings the story to life.

Interestingly, though, while the 30-second full version of ‘Cupboard Raiders’ scored 5 Stars, so did the 10-second version, which cuts the whole story back to just the moment where the boy shares his biscuits. For a 10-second ad to spend half its time on wordless communication is almost unheard of, but it works brilliantly, and shows the emotional core of the campaign is extremely strong.

  1. ‘Fingers Big and Small’ (2021)

This more recent ad is also for Cadbury Fingers. Unusually for the ‘Glass and a Half in Everyone’ campaign, it’s a montage – a series of rapid, close-up scenes of hands holding, reaching for and breaking the chocolate biscuits.

As Wood says in Look Out, montages and abstracted body parts are usually more associated with advertising that wins the more focused “narrow-beam” attention of the left brain – less effective for brand-building. But in this case, the techniques combine with the campaign’s signature style of realistic settings and quiet, intimate sound design and the result is rather magical.

  1. ‘Night’ (2022)

The most recent execution in the campaign is one of the simplest – someone breaking off a piece of Dairy Milk chocolate in the middle of the night, in a six-second execution that ran on Facebook and Instagram. As usual, there’s no music and a simple, intimate aesthetic – in this case, the brand’s more tangible distinctive assets (its chocolate and packaging) have come to the fore too. ‘Night’ got the highest ever score for a six-second ad on System1’s Test Your Ad database, showing that the campaign excels at even the shortest length.

Cadbury’s work with VCCP has been so successful, and is so distinctive, that it can only be a matter of time before Cadbury-a-like ads with minimal sound and slice-of-life stories start showing up. For now, though, the formula is all Cadbury’s own and the benefits of its boldness are clear.