VCCP gives Cadbury its soul back

Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee

The original ethical brand has gone some way to returning to its roots.

There’s something a bit upside down about the Mondelez International-owned chocolate brand Cadbury Dairy Milk undertaking a charitable push for older people, while the ad industry charity History of Advertising Trust is seeking to make money out of that same cohort.

It has been 10 years since the US conglomerate Kraft, which subsequently spun off its international snacks business to create Mondelez, launched a hostile bid for Cadbury, the Midlands-based and temperance-inspired cocoa and drinks business.

The takeover of one of the most important brands in the history and evolution of British business became a political cause célèbre and prompted soul-searching about the future of UK industry. Peter Mandelson, the then business secretary, warned Kraft not to try to "make a quick buck" from the acquisition.

However, the £11.5bn takeover went ahead. Kraft subsequently reneged on an assurance not to shut its Keynsham factory, shifting production to Poland, and switched from using Fairtrade cocoa beans to ones that did not offer the same price rules. In short, many of the ethics that were at the heart of the Quaker-founded Cadbury seemed to have been discarded and Mondelez didn’t come out of it with its reputation enhanced. More importantly, the venerable Cadbury brand looked damaged beyond repair.

And yet. VCCP has helped turn what could have been thought of as just another offshoot from an archetypal huge US conglomerate into something that it's possible to once again feel warm about. The agency has given Cadbury its humanity back.

Having worked on the brand since 2017, VCCP’s first notable campaign was the heart-melting "Mum’s birthday" for Daily Milk. This was quickly followed by "What makes it so Twirly?" for Twirl, showing both that "Mum’s birthday" wasn’t a lucky one-off and that VCCP knew how to portray "real" people. This was particularly relevant given that at the same time Adam & Eve/DDB was making such a total Horlicks of the same with The National Lottery.

VCCP’s latest Dairy Milk campaign, "Donate your words", goes one step further. As well as raising awareness of loneliness among the elderly and actively encouraging people to donate time to combat this, it is giving money from the sale of each limited-edition bar, which has had the words removed from the front of the packaging, to Age UK. 

Charitable tie-ups are ten a penny, but this one shows real commitment beyond bunging a logo at the end of the ad. It has also helped Cadbury restart its heart.

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