If you haven’t seen the “We will Not Tone it Down” Miracle Whip campaign, you need to take a look at it before you read this.

When I first saw this ad run on TV, I thought the folks at Kraft had lost their minds (The agency is McGarryBowen).  Obviously this campaign is targeted at the Gen Y crowd here, which is a tough crowd to reach with big brand advertising. But this approach is downright dreadful. Were they really trying to forge Miracle Whip into a counterculture brand? Just the idea of a counterculture brand is absurd, let alone a brand like Miracle Whip trying to be “deck.”   They also have a “social app” called Zingr.  This is about as bad as Michael Steele trying to appeal to black people by calling his blog “What up?”.  This campaign triggered a gag reflex every time I saw it. 

I laughed pretty hard when Stephen Colbert came through with a nice little parody of the absurd ads. Fast forward to :30:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Mayo-lution Will Not Be Televised
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor U.S. Speedskating

In my mind the issue was settled: these ads were over-the-top-stupid and the people who put them together were helplessly out of touch.  (Disclaimer: I am also hopelessly out of touch). 

But then the Kraft / McGarryBowen people surprised me.  They took out full page ads countering Colbert’s parody with a parody of their own.  They wrote a response letter to Colbert announcing that they were going to “dominate the airspace” with ads on the Colbert Report.

Well I’ll be damned. Someone at Kraft realizes how absurd their ads are and they’re willing to risk further ridicule by countering with a sense of humor. While the ads alone don’t make sense, the conversation around the ads does. By participating in a conversation about this campaign, they are probably reaching the very audience they intended to reach.

Was this all part of Kraft’s master plan? Did they bait the mainstream media by creating a campaign so stupid that comedians are bound to laugh at it?  Did Kraft successfully manufacture a conversation catered to irony-loving hipsters that is being played out on the web?

I doubt this self-deprecating approach was a pre-meditated master plan by Kraft. But if they keep the conversation going, they just might be one of the few big brands to successfully break through to the advertising-adverse Gen Y hipsters.  Or not.


  1. Awesome post, Ryan.

    I say “Not.”

    Yes, I was surprised to see Miracle Whip not cower to Stephen Colbert. And I was as dumbfounded by the original campaign. A full-blown WTF moment…

    But I think the real genius lies with Colbert, who adeptly confuses the collective unconsciousness. He’s hilarious to the awake and perplexing to the asleep.

    IMO, there is virtually no way they will “break through” – Kraft is based on making non-food taste really good. Those companies will find fewer and fewer customers as time goes on, because Gen-Y is craving to take over the game and eradicate falsehood. Gen-X is already busy tearing down facades such as this.

    My verdict: I think your first impression was very astute. This is another paper-thin identity that will receive no more than ridicule. Isn’t it funny how you can tell they wish so hard that it would work?

    …”What uuup? :^D

    01/28/10 at 7:00 pm
  2. The true genius is indeed Colbert. I agree that Gen-Y craves authenticity, which makes it tougher for big brands to market to this generation. Then again, hipsters have no problem walking down the street in American Apparel garb, while listening to their iPod and drinking a PBR.

    01/29/10 at 10:15 am

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