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How Irn-Bru viral success prompted a national campaign

How Irn-Bru viral success prompted a national campaign

By Clark Turner. 

It might only be a year old, but it’s already become one of the most iconic adverts of the Christmas season.

What are we talking about? The Irn-Bru ad that is a reworking of the famous 1982 animated movie ‘The Snowman’ based on the book by Raymond Briggs.

Last year it screened in Scotland and fast became a national favourite and now on the back of viral success is to be screened UK-wide.

Created by the Leith Agency, they had been briefed to create a “fantastic seasonal ad” following on from a previous ad campaign, which demonstrated the extra lengths consumers wound got to taste Irn-Bru.

London-based Sherbert Animation took around three months to draw and depict the film, before piecing it altogether.

The product appeals to a broad market in Scotland and is drunk by people of all ages but sales peak at Christmas. The new ad needed to be engaging and have a family friendly feel... and the ‘Snowman’ ad was just that.

The ad caught the imagination of the media, generating extensive PR coverage in national titles. But it’s being placed on YouTube exposed the ad to an even bigger audience.

Head of Marketing for Barr Soft Drinks, Adrian Troy, told us, “Our plan had purely been to air the ad on TV and the production schedule was so tight we only completed the ad the day before it was screened.

“We thought there might be some viral merit to it but the timings meant we had no opportunity to leak it before it hit TV.”

He added, “It’s great the ad had fans and passed it on to their friends but it was no great surprise as there’s a massive Irn-Bru community online.”

“In lots of ways we are brand guardians but the public has a huge positive strength of feeling about the brand. As much as we can develop the brand, the public will do as they choose with it. To try and control that is very dangerous.”

The viral popularity of ‘Snowman’ has led to it being seen my over one million YouTube users. It also won the Grand Prix at the Scottish Advertising Awards.

On the back of this success, the ad is to run across TV in the UK this season, backed by strategic cinema buying.

To Brits, the Scottish references in the ad may be lost, but look closely and viewers will be able to spot key national landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Bridge, Loch Ness and Skibo Castle.

In this way the brand has managed to stamp it’s Scottish heritage inadvertently over the film.

“What sticks in my mind is something that was said to be by a fan of the brand – ‘My Irn-Bru, my childhood, my Scotland," said Adrian.

Without resting on their laurels, a new summer campaign was also created for the brand featuring Goths on holiday in Blackpool.

‘Goth Holiday’ shows the Goths enjoying their favourite drink on the sands and pleasure beach rides.

“It’s been a good summer for us," said Adrian. “The poor weather created a tough market but we still delivered a good performance and the advert was key to driving that.

“When you break it down, it’s all about capturing the ‘feel good’ values of the brand and the creative was a great vehicle to expressing that.”

Brands may be increasingly looking to celebrities to front their campaigns, but don’t expect Irn-Bru to follow the same path.

“It’s never been high on the agenda for us,” said Adrian. “Irn-Bru has a massive amount of celebrity fans and we’ll work behind the scenes with them. But in our advertising, we have our own message and own point of view and we stand by that.”

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