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Sticky ad for Skoda is more than sweet

by Nigel Hollis | April 17, 2008
Last month, I wrote about two ads produced by Fallon—the "Gorilla" ad for Cadbury's Dairy Milk, and the "Cake" ad for the Skoda Fabia. When I wrote that post, it was clear that the Gorilla ad was quite the sensation, attracting the attention of agency planners and YouTube viewers. Since then, Fallon was named Agency of the Year at the 32nd British Television Advertising Awards, Gorilla was named as the Best TV Commercial of the year, and Cake won a Gold award.

Both ads are unconventional. But one is for an entrenched and beloved CPG brand, while the other is for an automotive brand that has had a difficult history in the UK. So, in my post, I asked you if you thought that Cake ad would do as much for Skoda as Gorilla did for Cadbury's Dairy Milk (CDM).



The consensus among the brave group of people who responded seemed to be that because associations with the Skoda brand are not as positive as associations with CDM,  the Cake ad could not do as much for the Fabia as Gorilla could for CDM. Another factor mentioned was the vast difference between the purchase decisions for cars and chocolate. Because an automotive purchase is a highly considered one, the Cake ad was believed to have less opportunity to be influential.

I was pleased to see the comments the post inspired and the discussion it generated.  But now I would like to consider the Cake ad from another angle, and share some results we got from testing it as part of an R&D project. (Sorry, but I still can't share any results on Gorilla.)

As you can see from the summary below, there should be little doubt that this ad is going to engage its audience. People found it highly enjoyable and distinctive and it left them feeling good. The music and the action on screen drew people in and kept them engaged throughout the ad. The Awareness Index predicted for the ad is high enough to place the ad in the top 10 percent on that metric.


But what about persuasion? As our commenters pointed out, buying a car is not like buying a bar of chocolate. It is a much more considered decision. Does the ad provide enough new, relevant, and differentiating information to persuade people to buy the Fabia? No, of course it doesn't. But it doesn't have to. That's not what Skoda needed from this ad. A quick look at BRANDZ data from 2007 on the Skoda Fabia will help us understand the context in which the ad was intended to work.

Though it has been present in the U.K. market for a long time, Skoda is not very well known. With 36 percent presence, it ranks ahead of brands like Seat or Kia, but lagging the likes of Honda, Renault and GM's Vauxhall. While it is on par with Mazda on presence, it lacks Mazda's ability to move people on to the relevance level. Mazda carries most people with presence though to relevance (the point at which people might seriously start to consider the brand) while Skoda only manages to progress about half. When we look at the advantage level,  we find that only about one in ten people believe that Skoda has an advantage over other car brands, compared to almost one in five for Mazda. The people who actually do bond with Skoda tend to do so more on the basis of price than emotional affinity.

So Skoda faced two basic problems last year. Few people knew enough about it to even consider it, and many of those that did know about it didn't want to be seen driving it, or didn't think it would meet their needs (or both).

TV advertising could help address the first problem, but could it really be expected to address the second? I doubt it. But because people do not buy a new car on the basis of seeing one TV commercial, we really need to consider how all the potential touch points will work together to have an impact, not focus on the TV campaign in isolation. What the TV advertising could do was to sensitize people to the brand and provide enough buzz to encourage them to pay attention to other communications, particularly independent reviews.

One indicator of an ad's buzz potential is the degree to which people say that would talk to others about it and share it online. The Link pre-test found that a large proportion of people said they would do this – a much larger proportion than we had found in previous work on viral advertising.

Journalists and bloggers latched onto the ad. Headlines referencing "cake" appeared in many places, including reviews of the new Fabia. I would suggest that people were primed to read these reviews as a result of the engaging TV advertising, which may have indirectly encouraged people to change their minds about the brand.

This was not just serendipity but a carefully planned strategy, as the following quote from the Car Connection suggests:
With talk of the car being "a tasty model" and the "icing on the cake" of the VW-owned firm, journalists even got a packet of cake mix through the mail so they could bake their own slightly smaller version.

And the strategy seems to be working. Note this exchange on

"HotRodzNKustoms wrote: I bet it taste like crap just because it's Skoda"

"(mxrz in reply) Did you just woke up from a comma [sic]? Skodas have been the complete oposite of crap for the last several years, and only getting better."

This survey on TopGear shows three Skodas in the top seven in customer satisfaction.

So to my mind, the Fabia ad succeeds at a number of levels. It is engaging and rewards the viewer for their time. It sets the brand up as interesting and different. It helps trigger word of mouth that will get the brand talked about. It helps prime people's attention to communication in other media. What's not to like?


Leave a comment
  1. Nigel Hollis, April 30, 2008
    Gideon, thanks for the comment - for some reason it got hung up in the spam filter - but better late than never! I agree that 100% focus on image does not mean touting product benefits.
    Thanks, Nigel
  2. Gideon, April 24, 2008
    Rene - "They should have focused 100% on the image of the brand" - surely this is presicely the kind of advertising that is focusing on the image of the brand. Their relaunch 4 or 5 years ago was a clever 'marmite style' acknowledgment of their heritage - but they've moved away from that in this execution and are establishing an image. This ad has so many underlying messages that will have built its image
    - family friendly
    - manufacturing care
    - thinks/acts against the norm

    This, combined with the awareness generated (the DIY cakes to the journalists is a stroke of genious) seems to suggest they merit their award both on creative style and tangible success. When will the BrandZ pyramids be updated?

    And Chuck, if it's any reassurance we brits also made the cillit bang and esure adverts. Both ads are like discovering what the sound of nails on a blackboard would look like (having said that - as far as I'm aware - both were incredibly effective for generating awareness and sales).
  3. Nigel Hollis, April 20, 2008
    Thanks for the comments.
    To Chuck's point, music can help or hinder how well an ad works - I have seen dramatically different response to the same execution but with a different soundtrack. I would also have to agree that the follow-up to Gorilla did not work for me either but I am not sure it was the music at fault. Too predictable maybe?
  4. Rene Dwight, April 20, 2008
    The Skoda advert was brilliant due to the fact viewers will talk about "how did they make it" however I doubt if it will result in any extra sales. They should have focused 100% on the image of the brand.
  5. Chuck Nyren, April 18, 2008
    Gorilla: I usually dislike ads that use classic rock music. It detracts from the ad/message, triggers memories good and bad, cheapens those memories - and I could go on and on with reasons to avoid such pandering.

    But I do get a kick out of the Cadbury spot. It's something very, very special.

    However, I saw a follow-up spot with Queen's music and it falls flat, I think, failing for all the reasons I warn about. In fact, I had to watch it twice because the first time I was just listening to the music and was off in the ether - and missed the fact that it was for Cadbury. I made sure I was paying attention the second time ....

    I adore the Fabia spot. Your take on it is pitch perfect. As I watched, it sunk in as a simple metaphor for caring about the design and manufacture of your product, and doing it with flair and vision.

    But those English blokes and lassies always make great commercials. There is a new wave over there that reminds me of their golden age back in the 1970s/80s. Or maybe I just see the good stuff ...
  6. RichardD, April 17, 2008
    Hi Nigel, I'd agree with you on the fact that the Fabia ad is engaging and helps differentiate it from other manufacturers whilst at the same time triggering word of mouth but does it build the brand in the right manor?

    Word of mouth is always a strong influence on purchases but I'm not convinced people will be talking about the car or the ad with cake and nice song.

    If you're aim is at the segment of the market that only deals in price and looks then I'm sure the Fabia ad 'would do'. But if you're trying to influence the serious car buyer, who remembers the bad rep from the 70's-80's, is this ad going to help change the minds of the nine in ten that feel the Skoda brand isn't competitive?

    I personally would buy a Skoda but right this minute I want a iced bun :)

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