Festival Intelligence: Hitting the sweet spot in North America | M&M Global

Festival Intelligence: Hitting the sweet spot in North America

The confectionery market is worth big bucks in North America. Despite consumers around the world becoming more health conscious, marketers are still hitting their sweet spot through smarter, responsible advertising that taps into human needs and emotions to create universally relevant brands that drive long-term credibility and brand love.

The North America Confectionery Market 2018-2023 report predicts that the confectionery market in North America will reach $58 billion by 2023, with a stable CAGR of 3.3% during the forecast period. But even though consumers are becoming more food and health aware, there is still a major appetite for sweet treats, with chocolate cravings dominating the market.

In line with what consumers want, it’s encouraging to see confectionery giants not only adapting their sustainability strategies but also taking a stand on responsible marketing. Mars, for example, states on its website: ‘As manufacturers of some of the world’s best-loved chocolate, confectionery, chewing gum and food brands, we recognise our huge responsibility and we’re privileged to play a part in your everyday lives. To respect you and your family, we promise to market in only appropriate ways, especially when it comes to reaching your children on new, emerging digital channels. Everything begins with trust. That’s why we have a comprehensive global Marketing Code that guides all of our marketing activities. It sets strict guidelines for the way we advertise food, chocolate, confections and gum products across all our markets, so you know just what you’re getting when you enjoy our products and services.’

“We love the fact that consumers enjoy our diverse brands. But we have a big responsibility to market them ethically, to be honest with consumers, and to avoid marketing to children,” says Jacqui Stephenson, Global Responsible Marketing Officer at Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “We are working hard to improve our compliance rates and, collaborating with all parts of our media buying process, to ensure we achieve our target in the future.”

The confectionery market has experienced a massive shift in recent years, not just with stricter health regulations and packaging standards but also in consumer habits. And this has contributed to the rise of innovation including limited editions, experiments with different ingredients and flavour combinations, and the premiumisation of gift purchases.

At the Festival of Media North America Awards 2018, food & beverage brands represented 27% of all winning campaigns. Within this sector, the entries gave a taster of work from confectionery brands who centred their marketing approach around being more personal, emotional, authentic and culturally aware, across both traditional and online channels, involving a range of partnerships spanning TV, online and social media.

Just as the media landscape has evolved, confectionery advertising is growing up as marketers turn the focus to exploring new and innovative ways to engage customers in real and relatable ways, including social media, customised audio ads, TV, gaming and beyond, to find relevant moments of brand interaction.

In a highly saturated market dominated by chocolate confectionery giants Hershey and Mars (Euromonitor, 2018), competition for a slice of this lucrative market is high. Added to the fact that it’s largely an impulse category, purchasing trends change regularly and frequently. The one staple, however, is annual holidays/events including Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Christmas, during which time candy sales consistently soar.

The most successful confectionery brands are creating new and exciting ways to interact with consumers on a more emotional level and finding relevant moments to present unique branding opportunities to stand out against competitors and create the kind of brand loyalty everyone craves.  

We put the spotlight on two Festival of Media North America Awards 2018 shortlisted entries, which highlight this trend:

Bite Size Horror | M&M’s, Snickers, Starburst, Skittles (Mars, Inc) | Starcom | US

Shortlisted for: Best Branded Content led by Traditional / Non-Digital Channels, Food & Beverages (Highly Commended), Best Use of Traditional or Ambient Media


Each Halloween season brings the same “treats” to consumers: Commercial clutter and over-saturation of repetitive messaging from all of the candy brands. For Mars to succeed, Starcom needed a “trick” to stand out in this highly competitive impulse category, especially since Mars was outspent 2:1 during the time period. It identified ad retention as the KPI to drive top of mind awareness, and ultimately sales. However, with no additional funding, it would need to rely on Mars’ current media partnerships.

Being spooky at Halloween is simply table stakes for advertisers. However, what people really crave during Halloween is a desire to get the adrenaline pumping with the help of haunting, bone chilling tales; twice as many horror movies are released in October than any other month of the year. If Mars was going to break through during October it needed to go beyond the expected and produce hair raising, cinematic quality horror content. The strategy was to create quality, long-form horror content for Mars Bite-Sized candy and distribute it across both high reach / high engagement properties as well as contextually relevant programming.

With this approach, Halloween holiday makers would take note and the Mars Bite-Sized message would haunt them long after the advertising disappeared. The agency produced four, two-minute horror films for no incremental spend above Mars’ Upfront commitment with FOX. It knew it needed to go beyond the expected “jump scare” and to go deeper, to a bone-chilling fright that only a true horror film director could achieve. Films ran during traditional commercial time in mass reaching FOX programming like the Major League Baseball playoffs and contextually relevant programs like American Horror Story and Ghosted. All films were also available on Fox.com and YouTube.

Oh Henry! Oh Canada! | Oh Henry! (Hershey’s) | UM | Canada

Shortlisted for: Best Use of Real-time Marketing


Canada’s 150th anniversary provided an opportunity for brands to integrate themselves in the highly anticipated national zeitgeist. To celebrate and promote the brand, beloved candy bar Oh Henry! created a limited edition candy bar, “Oh Henry! Oh Canada!” with the goal of selling out prior to Canada’s birthday fireworks. However, with so many advertisers rushing to outspend and outshout one another around Canada’s 150th, Oh Henry! needed to connect with consumers in a clever, uniquely Canadian way that other advertisers were not capitalising on.

To make a deep connection with Canada, the agency decided to look at the most ubiquitous of digital activities – the Google search. What makes a search Canadian? It looked at two key streams – how they spell and how they measure. Official spelling for Canadian English was established in 1962 with the publishing of the first Canadian English dictionary. Similarly, the Metric system was officially adopted by the Canadian government in 1970 relegating the Imperial system to a bygone era. But when it dug into the data, UM found that searches weren’t as Canadian as they should be.

With its insights into what makes Canadians true Canadians, Oh Henry! was ready to take the message of national pride to consumers in the spaces where their Canadian distinctions were (or should be) most apparent – internet search. It would be able to celebrate “true Canadians” and call out those who veered away from “Canadianisms” – all in real-time while promoting the limited edition “Oh Henry! Oh Canada” candy bar. It unmasked basic human truths yielded in the search bar and used them to craft a message that is singularly relevant to the moment consumers were searching. These searches had nothing to do with Oh Henry! However, by leveraging a powerful insight of how Canadians search and how it relates to their national identity, it was able to hijack a key cultural moment and create a unique branding opportunity.

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