It’s the goal of most ad makers today to create brand content that's at least as watchable as the entertainment it supports. It doesn't happen often, needless to say, but U.K. dairy brand Yeo Valley and agency BBH London hit the jackpot with "Boy Band," a mock music video that aired during the opening live show of the British edition of X Factor on Saturday.
The 2-minute film featured a parody boy band, The Churned, extolling the virtues of organic farming. It’s slick and funny and, according to the reaction on social media, vastly superior to the boy band performances on X Factor itself.
The spot is part of the brand’s "Live in Harmony" campaign, designed to convey a serious message across about Yeo Valley’s sustainably produced products, organic farming methods, and West Country roots. It aims to show that organic foods are accessible without resorting to the over-earnest approach typically used in the organic sector. The spot also represents a scenario becoming more common in the agency world—agency creative as songwriter.
BBH creative duo Jonny Durgan and Martin Reed authored the new execution, working with creative director Rosie Arnold. "Boy Band" is a follow-up to 2010’s hugely successful "Rap," which introduced the music video format with apple-cheeked farmers spitting rhymes about dairy. Durgan says: "After ‘Rap,’ Yeo Valley wanted to do something similar. We tried to go for something a bit more populist, because rap is quite niche within our target market. A boy band, particularly with X Factor, seemed a logical place to start."
It’s no surprise that Yeo Valley wanted more of the same; "Rap" aired in October 2010, and in the 12 weeks to December 25, 2010, the brand experienced a 14.9% year-on-year sales uplift, outperforming the total yogurt market by two-and-a-half times. It also won the the Grand Prix from the U.K.’s Marketing Society.
After agreeing with Yeo Valley head of marketing Ben Cull exactly what points to hit in the new song, Durgan and Reed wrote the lyrics. "It was quite literally working out what rhymes with milk, what rhymes with yogurt, what would be a good comedy line," says Durgan. After being "tweaked" by Arnold and then the client, the lyrics were sent off to a songwriter.
BBH has long had a way with ad tunes. The agency has an internal music department, Black Sheep Music, (a play on the agency’s logo) which, in addition to last year’s "Rap," created the Templecloud re-recording of One Big Family for KFC, which spent several weeks in the charts.
Black Sheep Music pointed the team toward songwriter Si Hulbert. "We sent the lyrics through to him and he sent us a tune. We all loved it. The client loved it," Durgan says. The song is called "Forever."
So far, so simple. Selecting members of The Churned was slightly more complicated. After looking at some real farmers that worked on Yeo Valley Farm, who, acting-wise were "a bit limited," Durgan and the team saw 200 actors for the parts before finally selecting four that fit the classic boy band archetypes.
The spot was shot over two days on the Yeo Valley Farm in Somerset. "People don’t actually think Yeo Valley Farm is a real place, but it is," Durgan says.
Reaction to the spot when it was first aired was, in Durgan’s words, "epic." During the show, #yeovalley was the No. 1 worldwide trending topic on Twitter, with overwhelmingly positive tweets. By the following day, "Forever" had reached number 30 in the iTunes chart, 55,532 people had shared the video on Facebook, and there had been more than 132,000 YouTube views.
The next stage of the campaign invites people to sing along to the tune on Yeo Valley’s Facebook page, in a kind of audition, the winner of which will feature in an adapted version of the ad, which will run during the X Factor final.
As to the correlation between a popular tune and conveying a brand message, Durgan says, "The more people who get the song and listen to the lyrics and are getting the message about the way Yeo Valley goes about its business. I think that’s only a positive thing."