Tim Youngman: Marmite and advertising – you either love it or hate it.

Marmite - you either love it or hate it

Marmite - you either love it or hate it - Credit: Archant

Advertising, you either love it or hate it, well that’s the idea anyway. Advertising is supposed to create some sort of emotional reaction. The Christmas John Lewis ads are great examples of this. Whatever it does, it is supposed to do something, especially sell you the thing the ad is about.

Occasionally ads provoke such a strong response that people feel that they need to complain. The all time favourite case studies of this are the Benetton campaigns of the 90s. However right now a new campaign from Unilever for Marmite is doing exactly what the team there and at its ad agency hoped.

If you have not seen the TV ad or posters, the current Marmite “cruelty” ad spoofs the work of animal rescue workers. In the TV ad Marmite rescue workers go into houses and rescue unloved jars of Marmite left at the back of cupboards and take them to a Marmite rescue centre to be re-housed.

However not everyone understands the definition of irony, and the ad has received hundred of complaints that it “trivialises” the work of animal charities. This though has had the opposite effect to what the complainers wanted and exactly what the Unilever brand team dreamt of. Lots of industry praise and more importantly a “significant” uplift in the YouGov Brand Index recall survey.

Now let me tell you I unashamedly both love this campaign for its sheer amusing genius almost as much as I love eating Marmite on toast. The creative concept is brilliantly clever and funny. It’s like no other campaign right now and continues the “love it or hate it” theme of recent campaigns. It’s a brand statement that no-one else is prepared to try, helped by the nature of the product. They are even so strong in keeping on message that the final image is of a small boy eating marmite with a face that shows he clearly is a marmite hater. Can you imagine a chocolate ad where the person spits out the chocolate in disgust at the end? Neither can I this campaign is aimed straight at its loyal target market who love the brand and what it stands for and that’s why it’s a “love it” from me.


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Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant

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