James Hurman examines the 2022 IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix winner for Cadbury, ‘There’s a glass & a half in everyone’ by VCCP London, in the first installment of his EFF BOMB series which looks at effective advertising.


I’m James Hurman, and this is issue #1 of my new column for WARC, called Eff Bomb. It’s a column about advertising that’s, well, fucking effective. And what we can all learn from it.

The column’s also a thinly veiled ad for my online programme the Master of Advertising Effectiveness, where I bring together and teach all of the evidence based principles of how advertising works and how to make it work better.

All the stuff you know and love from WARC, the IPA, Ehrenberg Bass and other marketing effectiveness founts – but would like to understand in enough depth to be able to really apply it to the brands you work on. Check it out at mae.academy.

In this column, I’ll take apart recent effectiveness award winners and show how they’ve put the principles of effectiveness together to create significant brand and business growth.

Sometimes they’ll have combined a couple of the principles. But the real Eff Bombs are those that have gotten everything right all at once.

Like Cadbury UK did with “There’s a glass & a half in everyone”.

The campaign, from VCCP London, won the IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix toward the end of last year, and it really is a total Eff Bomb.

So here we go…

The story begins with Kraft corporate-raiding Cadbury in 2010 and then basically fucking it up for seven years straight, falling out with the British public, and watching their penetration, market share and revenue veer toward the toilet.

Since 2007’s sublime ‘Gorilla’, the work had become increasingly dismal, and as one consumer said, “Cadbury just doesn't feel like Cadbury anymore”.

Cue new brand and advertising strategy.

They started with an uncommon-common-sense bit of thinking which was to go back to the core of Cadbury – the Dairy Milk product – and it’s five-star distinctive asset, the ‘glass & a half’ of milk in every bar.

That’s something we don’t do nearly enough of. Returning to the core. Revitalising the parts of the brand that people already know and love. We’re too quick to try and invent new stuff, when reactivating old positive memory structures is much easier than creating new ones.

And that needn’t be a path to worn out old ideas.

VCCP did this nice little move where they recognised that there’s real emotional power in the simple act of generosity of giving chocolate to others.

That there’s a little bit of that generosity in all of us.

That ‘There’s a glass & a half in everyone.’

Perfect. Old distinctive asset reframed from rational ingredient story to emotional insight. Revealing a fertile new creative platform.

In the award paper they waffle on about Cadbury rediscovering their purpose, being ‘to inspire more generosity in the world’, while also having to dance around the fact that nobody likes purpose any more, which is amusing to read but all very unnecessary given it’s not really a purpose (rest assured the Mondelez board don’t give a fuck about Brits being generous to one another).

It’s just a lovely human truth about chocolate that they could build great work from.

Which is, and always has been, the high watermark of human achievement in planning advertising. Bravo VCCP planners.

Then off they went to the creative department, with the same reasonably healthy advertising budget (their share of voice was a fraction higher than their share of market), and a proper long-term (5-year) objective of increasing value sales by 9%.

Over the next few years they made a series of films about everyday Britons using Cadbury's Dairy Milk to demonstrate generosity toward one another.

There was ‘Mum’s Birthday’:

Then ‘Fence’:

Then ‘Bus’:

Then a 2020 lockdown special, ‘When this is over’

They’re lovely films. The product’s at the heart of a human story. They’re creatively high-quality – original, engaging and well crafted.

And besides that storytelling, they also did, in their words, ‘storydoing’. Campaigns that took the idea of generosity out into the real word. They did a massive easter egg hunt and secret Santa where people could show their generosity by sending Cadbury Dairy Milk directly to a loved one. A charitable campaign enabling people to tackle elderly loneliness with generosity. A generous covid campaign encouraging people not to buy Cadbury, but to support their local chocolate store instead.

Collectively the work proves the quality of the brand platform. Generosity is an idea that’s possible to execute in lots of different and creatively powerful ways.

And they stuck to it consistently for five years.

In that time, with the annual media budget staying more or less the same as it was before 2017, the brand had a massive glow up.

People liked the ads more. Much more.

And more and more with each new execution. Which is one thing that happens when we stick to a brand platform through subsequent executions. In Cadbury’s case, the ads didn’t actually get any better, in my opinion. But as the public got more and more familiar with the generosity idea, they liked each new execution more. This is the familiarity bias at work. We like things we’re familiar with. Sticking with the same brand platform through successive executions gives each new execution an automatic head start.

The Cadbury brand got healthier – consideration and purchase intent improved.

And of course, the commercial performance turned around. Dairy Milk penetration went up from 66% to 74%. The product’s sales, which had been declining, increased as much as 15% per annum.

The metric I like the most is the large improvement in quality perceptions. From 29% of people saying Cadbury was high quality to 37%. That’s a meaningful shift, and what I like about it is that nowhere in the comms do Cadbury talk about the quality of the product. Instead, they did what works much better – made peoples emotional connection with Cadbury stronger.

One of the coolest things we’ve learned about emotional advertising is that it makes people think better, rationally, of products. As Peter and Les say in The Long & Short of It:

“Emotional campaigns generate much stronger effects, despite the fact that they tend to say much less about product performance or benefits than rational campaigns. Consumers cannot help but believe better of brands that that they feel emotionally closer to.”

And that’s such an epic trick to be able to play. Wrap your head around it. When we connect emotionally, consumers just assume that our products are better.

And not only the ones we can afford to put in the ads. All of them.

That’s why total Cadbury sales and market share increased so much. They only advertised the Dairy Milk product. But the whole business grew.

Total Cadbury went from a 31% to a 35% share, and they grew value sales 22%, smashing the 9% objective, and adding £261M to annual sales. About 11 times what they spent on the advertising.

To top it all off, they lessened the cost of discounting across the business. The percentage of Cadbury products sold at full price increased by 9% during the campaign. This is something else we know about long-term emotional campaigns – they decrease price sensitivity thereby increasing brand profitability.

So there we have it. An absolute Eff Bomb. So what can we learn?

  1. Start with a proper budget – they were spending at about 32% share of voice, with market share of about 31%. This didn’t give them any real ESOV growth advantage, but they were spending adequately and so could reasonably expect much better advertising to lead to growth.
  2. Start with a long-term value objective. They didn’t have a stupid short-term volume objective which we know erodes long-term brand and business value. They targeted a 9% increase in sales value, and over 5 years.
  3. When you’ve got something in your history that works, breathe new life into it. They focused in on a powerful distinctive asset – the ‘glass & a half’ device. They didn’t just put it on the ads. They interpreted it in a fresh way. They made the choice, consciously, not to try to invent something new when there was a brilliant historical asset on the table.
  4. Develop a platform idea based on a proper, universal human insight. ‘There’s a glass & a half in everyone’ could be executed across different campaigns, media and cultural moments. And it could speak to ‘all category buyers’ as opposed to any particular target group. That’s creative strategy at its best. It’s really hard to do, and they did it.
  5. Create emotional ads with the product at their heart. The Cadbury TVCs are simple, emotional stories that show people being generous by giving Cadbury Dairy Milk. They’re engaging, and the product is at the centre of each story, but not in a heavy handed way.
  6. Produce many of those stories, each time refreshing the same idea with a new execution. And stick to it over a long term. That’s effective long-term creative execution. Not just running the same ad over and over. But also not running whole new ideas each time. They stuck to one platform idea, then came out with new executions that expressed that idea in new ways.
  7. Care about creative quality. Cadbury’s stories and integrated campaign ideas are original and engaging. Everything’s crafted thoughtfully. Several of the executions shortlisted at Cannes Lions.
  8. Go for high Creative Commitment. That’s spending enough, running campaigns for long durations, and spreading over lots of media. The films were complemented with integrated ‘storydoing’ campaigns that took the idea to diverse audiences in diverse media, making them as effective as they could be.

It’s no wonder Cadbury and VCCP won the IPA Effectiveness Grand Prix. They understood and acted on every facet of effectiveness and produced a body of work that rescued and breathed new life into an iconic brand.

Read the full IPA paper on WARC here.

Learn about the Master of Advertising Effectiveness here.

About James Hurman

James is an advertising effectiveness expert from New Zealand. He’s the programme director of the Master of Advertising Effectiveness, in partnership with WARC. He’s also the author of effectiveness books The Case for Creativity and Future Demand, and the author of major effectiveness studies The Effectiveness Code and The B2B Effectiveness Code. He’s a co-founder of brand tracking SAAS martech start-up Tracksuit, and the founding partner at New Zealand innovation studio Previously Unavailable. James spent his advertising career as a strategic planner, and was named the world’s #1 planning director in 2013.

About Eff Bomb

Eff Bomb is a WARC column about the world’s most effective advertising campaigns. Each issue, James Hurman takes apart a recent effectiveness award winner and shows how it put the principles of effectiveness together to create significant brand and business growth.