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Starburst berries and cream: Here’s what your brand can learn from the viral TikTok trend

First lesson: Weird is good. Second lesson: No ad is ever really dead.

Starburst berries and cream: Here’s what your brand can learn from the viral TikTok trend
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My daughter wasn’t even born when Starburst launched its 2007 ad “Bus Station.” But after seeing it just once on YouTube . . . well, let’s just say there was a very little lad who loves berries and cream dancing around my kitchen.

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She’s not alone. Despite the spot, created by agency TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, being 14 years old, it’s recently become a TikTok sensation. Between its sheer random weirdness and mind-numbingly catchy tune, it should come as no surprise that a new generation has found it and remixed it to make it its own.

Right away, it’s pretty clear this spot was perfectly positioned for a renaissance. The quick, easy, and of course, batsh*t craziness of it all fits the goofy karaoke-and-remix culture of TikTok like a lace-cuffed glove. David Griner at Adweek has a comprehensive deep dive into the making of the ad, and how the agency creatives were early to recognize the potential of YouTube to help ads go viral.

The fact “Bus Station” has found a much-delayed next wave of popularity should not only send brands scrambling back into their ad archives looking for potential 2021 gold, but also force them to reflect on why—as tens of millions are spent on new ad creative every year—”Bus Station” is outshining most of it. Last year, I made the case for a return of oddvertising, a briefly wonderful mid-aughts trend that saw brands engage in a delightful arms race of weird. Much of it came from the same minds at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York that gave us the Little Lad, including campaigns for Starburst sibling brands like Skittles and Snickers.

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Now, does that mean we’re in for the TikTok-ization of Skittles Pinata Guy or Singing Bunny? Is Denny’s ready for a Nannerpuss-aissance? Probably not, as amazing as all that would be. But it does speak to an opportunity that brands should look to take advantage of. The combination of oddvertising with creator culture—taking a funny piece of brand work, then allowing and encouraging fans to create their own versions—is perfectly suited to both today’s social tools, and how people want to interact with content.

Eric Kallman was a creative on many of the most popular ads of that oddvertising era, and eventually created “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” for Old Spice. Now the founder of his own agency, Erich & Kallman, Kallman told me last year that the fight for our attention has never been tougher, and one of the best ways to stand out—as the resurgence of “Bus Station” will attest—is taking risks. “The amount of marketers who spend gobs of money making ads that no one cares about, let alone remembers, talks about, or shares, is mind-blowing,” Kallman said. “As advertising grows more homogenous than ever, there is a huge opportunity for brands to break through and capitalize, simply by using creativity.”

And hey, if you can’t think of anything better, maybe pull a BMW and just start running the old ads again. Until then, this will do.

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@jacobsutherland

@Justin McElroy this is entirely your doing #berriesandcream

♬ original sound – Jacob Sutherland

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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