Snickers Campaign in Puerto Rico Goes Beyond Advertising Roots
SAN JUAN — In Puerto Rico, some good-natured ribbing goes a long way. Just ask the team at advertising agency BBDO Puerto Rico, which has masterminded one of the most oft-commented ad campaigns in memory, that of Snickers Puerto Rico. Under the slogan “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry,” the local BBDO team has taken a relatively simple premise and adapted it to local Puerto Rican trends in countless ways.
Lately, the campaign has reached near-unprecedented levels of engagement on the island, mainly through social media. The Snickers Puerto Rico Facebook page, which boasts nearly 63,000 followers, has gone viral in recent months with several humorous posts riffing on local news. Along the way, the campaign has taken on the guise of cultural commentator without losing sight of promoting the Snickers brand.
“The campaign has evolved in the last couple of years, and when we took it beyond TV commercials into radio and social media, that’s where we tapped into some local magic,” Glory Rosado, group account manager for BBDO Puerto Rico, told Caribbean Business. “Nowadays, other offices in the mainland U.S. and Latin America have used us as an example to emulate in their respective markets.”
Early on, the Snickers campaign was executed with much broader brushstrokes. In 2011, Mars Corp., which owns the Snickers brand, met with the heads of all the BBDO offices worldwide to look into consumer insights and find one strong enough to support a global ad campaign. Television commercials with celebrities who often lampooned themselves (for example, when someone got hungry and behaved like a diva, she’d turn into Aretha Franklin), comprised the first advertisements stemming from such efforts.
Stateside, the campaign first evolved when manufacturing plants released special wrappers detailing hunger symptoms, as well as packaging with blank spaces so consumers could enter their own symptoms. “That gave many people a creative spark,” Rosado said. “In Puerto Rico, we don’t have a manufacturing plant, so we adapted [the blank wrapper concept] to billboards and digital media.”
Later, in 2011, the local BBDO office already signaled its intention to step off the beaten path. The agency took hold of several early morning radio DJs and had them play the “wrong” music in their station (for example, playing salsa in a rock radio station or classical in an urban music channel) and blaming it on hunger. The campaign eventually reached more than 3.2 million people.
With time, the campaign would turn more irreverent, with Puerto Rican slang and even some made-up words being featured on billboards. Some terms were a play on English words, such as for example “gata saico” (psycho woman), while others have been so ingrained in the local culture (potrón, algaro) that they can be downright untranslatable.
“In the beginning, we came up with several of those words, but later terms would come from the people who follow us [on Facebook],” said Eduardo Rosado, associate creative director. “They have given us a lot of funny symptoms for hunger, it’s an ongoing conversation.”
The campaign’s next evolution came about because of a typo. Last March, Puerto Rico was hosting the Seventh International Congress of the Spanish Language, with Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía on hand for the event’s opening. While the king gave his keynote speech, a live broadcast on the island’s government-owned TV station committed a huge faux pas when the on-screen text misspelled “su majestad” (your majesty) with “su magestad.”
“It was global news, an error that everyone saw during an event celebrating the Spanish language,” said Katie Porrata, a copywriter for BBDO. Sure enough, the ad agency decided to make fun of it, blaming the typo on a hungry TV crew member and coming up with a Facebook post that simply said “magestuoso” (magestic). The post exploded virally, eventually getting around 1,900 reactions and almost 600 shares, a rarity on the island. “That was the first time we did a real-time reaction, and it was a hit,” Porrata added. “It marked the next evolution in our campaign.”
The BBDO creatives followed the “magestuoso” post with several real-time reactions that proved similar hits. “This campaign has stopped being advertising and has instead become part of the national conversation,” said Manolo Martínez, BBDO creative director. “It has sort of become what bomba music was on the island back in the day, a way for people to tell stories and gossip.”
When coming up with ideas, the team gets input from everyone at the agency. “It almost always starts with a text, somebody saying ‘did you see what happened?’” Martínez said. “Our followers also give us a heads-up, even our clients at Mars are heavily engaged in the process.”
Traditional media outlets have stepped into the act as well. When a local police officer arrested a protester holding what looked like a marijuana plant, only to realize it was actually a cassava plant, one daily got in touch with the agency to see if they could riff on the incident and place an ad in the process. The resulting post got 11,000 likes on Facebook.
Regarding real-time posts, the team is very careful not to step on toes or take sides, at times even consulting a team of lawyers to see if they wouldn’t get in trouble, Martínez noted. Nevertheless, one post riffing on an incident in which a woman exchanged blows with an employee at a widely known pizza restaurant brought the unwanted attention of the pizza franchise, prompting the agency to remove the post.
When no news ready to lampoon are available, the team has a ready supply of posts that can be deployed at any time and which speak to local consumers. “Although real-time is our main strategy, we have many other posts that also generate lots of engagement,” said Leslie Ocasio, community manager for BBDO.
Following the resounding success of the Snickers campaign, the agency has tried to incorporate some of the same processes into other brands that the agency manages, Martínez explained. Similarly, other brands have tried to replicate the Snickers campaign’s irreverent style, to mixed results. “It all boils down to strategy,” Glory Rosado said. “The style of the campaign and the Snickers brand go perfectly well together because the advertisements never lose sight of the main message: blame hunger.”