By now, we all pretty much know the “Vice Guide to Storytelling”: Find a cool angle on a compelling subject, send in an engaging, young, smart yet relatable reporter to interview subjects both quirky and authoritative, and tell the story as if it’s a conversation not a lecture. And it works. Whether it’s online shows or HBO, the media company has found a way to make big, complex topics feel intimate and understandable, and small cultural sub-genres feel like international news. Which brings us to this latest brand partnership with Mondelez International for its Swedish Fish Candy.
Vice’s Motherboard created a short doc called Swedish Fish Theory, investigating an urban myth–it’s on Reddit, natch–among the tech support crowd that if you include the candy when sending a computer or hard drive in for repair, it’ll come back faster.
Besides being diabolically delicious and addictive, these little red chewy candies apparently have a mystical power over tech support folk. Now, there is a pretty popular Reddit thread on it, but this might be the most Vice-ified brand story ever made. The tone and production is similar to any of the great work Vice has done investigating ISIS or in the Congo, but it rings a bit thin when it’s a shipping and receiving dude talking about how a bag of candy is far more preferable to get than a phone that was dropped in a toilet.
Now, to be clear, Vice says the doc was developed first, with the brand (and parent company Mondelez International) only signing on afterwards. Still, as branded content goes, Mondelez should be stoked. And Kalshelia Lloyd, Mondelez International’s associate director of North America cough and candy marketing, says they are.
“As a fun, quirky brand, Swedish Fish welcomes being a part of pop culture and moment-in-time conversations,” says Lloyd, in an email. “We were intrigued by the Swedish Fish theory since we first saw it online, and really wanted to understand what it was all about. That led us to working with Motherboard as they investigated and put the theory to the test–we are excited by the results!”
Motherboard went the full Vice on this, which means at its best, it’s a prime example of finding and shining a spotlight on the most interesting ways culture imposes itself on a brand. At its worst, it feels like an exaggerated pisstake from The Onion on Vice-style branded content. It’s worth checking out, whether you’re happy to have a tasty pro-tip the next time your hard drive crashes, or just left wondering if the next Vice investigation will be into if Miller Lite tastes great or is, in fact, simply less filling.