In the past few days our 9-month-old daughter has developed a perplexing obsession with books: We’ll throw over a pile of a dozen books on the floor and, one by one, she chooses them and asks us to read them to her. This wasn’t always the case. Since early on we showed her books and she didn’t find them as interesting as the multi-colored Fisher-Price thingamajigs that we have slowly amassed. There was one book in particular that she kind of hated and would not tolerate more than 5 seconds of exposure to, Black on White. A 12-page book that, as its name implies, is black stuff on a white background, with iconic images of things like a knife and fork, a bucket, a bib, a butterfly and a Ritz cracker. Yes, not any other cracker, a Ritz cracker. I remember mocking it out loud when I first saw it. Why would the author choose, among a zillion things, a Ritz cracker as something that a 3-month-old should familiarize his or herself with on par with a fish? Regardless of intentions, I recognized the cloudy-edged, tiny-holed shape immediately. And that’s exactly what Nabisco hopes that everyone does with their new campaign: Open for Fun.
Black on White by Tana Hoban.
Page 8 of Black on White showing two Ritz crackers.
Black on White predates this campaign, launched at the turn of this new year, by fifteen years, which is not to say that anyone plagiarized a baby book, but that there is indeed equity to be built upon the iconic shape of the 74-year-old cracker. The campaign revolves around the silhouette of the Ritz cracker deployed in a variety of lively hues and sizes, both in print and on TV. The agency in charge of the project is EURO RSCG, who were awarded the account back in June of 2007, after Kraft (owner of Nabisco) snapped the business away from JWT. I first saw the campaign while walking down the street about two weeks ago and was quite amazed by the simplicity and impact of it. With all the colorful, in-your-face poster sniping that happens in New York, Ritz’s stood out quite nicely, specially on the sun-less day I took the pictures:
The print campaign uses an amazingly restrained three-color palette punctuated by bold bursts of white, specifically (and maybe even brilliantly) the X formed by the open pack of Ritz. As reward to any New Yorker that dares to slow down to read the copy, the ads feature above-typical copywriting for a mass consumer product:
It’s not groundbreaking, but you can’t argue against the craving and erotic urges that the first line (mmmm, peanut butter) might trigger — or maybe that’s just me. You also have to love the tight tracking in that copy. But where this campaign truly becomes relevant is in the elevation of the silhouette of the product to icon status. Only time will tell if Ritz can achieve the same instant recognition as something as ubiquitous as the Coca-Cola bottle or those pesky iPod dancers, but in the cracker shape they have a beautiful and simple visual that could easily do so.
The Coke Side of Life campaign by Wieden+Kennedy.
iPod campaign by TBWA\Chiat\Day.
Absolut campaign by TBWA\Chiat\Day.
The TV advertising, produced in collaboration with Brand New School, also utilizes the cracker shape to great effect, making it lively and fun. The first commercial, with its flat graphic look is the best of the bunch, as the others start to get too corny but, as might you expect, the animation at the end gets me every time.
Open for Fun commercials embedded from AdGabber.
TV ad from the 50s. Not bad.
As a kid in Mexico, I don’t recall anything special about Ritz, they would just be there at kids’ birthday parties and at my parents’ friends’ houses on weekend brunches. They seem like a staple of life. Having not been around that time, I understand that Ritz is considered a Depression Era staple as well, something simple that could be pretentious and unpretentious at the same time, and the cracker has had a hard time surfacing from the stigma associated with this period. So I find this campaign to be highly effective in introducing (or, well, re-introducing) Ritz to a new generation of consumers through a fresh approach that shakess off any preconceptions about the beautifully tanned cracker — and if it starts with showing your infant silhouettes of the cracker on a baby book, then all the better.