Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
This Halloween has seen brands find the spooky side of everything from candy and tacos to cosmetics and furniture. For pomegranate juice brand Pom Wonderful, the season provided an opportunity to focus on something truly scary: free radicals, the unstable molecules that have been linked to heart disease and cancer.
"Our brief was to get people to understand the antioxidant goodness of Pom," said Margaret Keene, chief creative officer at Wonderful Agency. "How do we do that? Who are the protagonists and who are the villains of health and wellness?"
That question is answered in Pom's nationwide campaign, "Real Life Is Scary: Protect Yourself With Pom," which launched this month. Instead of scientific graphics common in health-related ads, "Real Life Is Scary" visualizes free radicals as monsters in our midst: little green aliens in an elevator, white-sheet ghosts at the laundromat and Nosferatu-inspired vampires at a movie theater.
"When you start talking about health and wellness, chemistry, free radicals, antioxidants and stuff like that, it can get pretty heavy," Keene explained. "We needed to make it really simple, light and fun, but also get the point across: there's some stuff out there that you need to combat in your everyday life, and this is the juice that can help you do that."
The effort's three spots are running on targeted in-stream on connected TV, digital and mobile channels and linear TV, as well as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and at select Spotlight Cinema theaters. Plus, Pom partnered with Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a screening of "Halloween," serving cocktails and juice to more than 4,000 attendees at a "Blood Bar."
During the brainstorming process, Keene's team at Wonderful Agency came up with many strong ideas — some of which, she hinted, could potentially show up in future ads. Several ideas pointed to a Halloween-themed effort that could be launched in October, the perfect time for a "scary" campaign.
One storyline, in particular, has life outside of the season: When the team was working on an alien-focused spot, UFO mania was hitting TikTok and beyond as military veterans testified in Congress about non-human "biologics" recovered from alleged alien crash sites.
"We were literally shooting in Prague when that was going," Keene recalled. "I was like, 'Geez, this is insane.' So I think the alien one in particular will be pretty topical forever, not just for Halloween."
But even as it focused on the harmful effects of free radicals and the helpful power of Pom, the spots couldn't be too scary or heavy. Keene and company had to walk the line of dealing with a serious topic in a light-hearted way.
“These guys can't be so villainous that it actually leaves a bad taste in your mouth," she said. "It was landing the fun, lightness and levity against some real health and wellness benefits. That's always tough."
Keene attributes the ability of Pom to walk that line in the "Real Life is Scary" campaign to having a close-knit team at Wonderful Agency that can brainstorm together and keep the crux of great ideas pure.
"With other agencies and other brands, there are so many tiers and categories, it's like the Heisman," Keene said, imitating the statue's pose. "You've got a great idea and you just keep pushing through everybody, and then you get to the end, you're talking to the leadership team or the C-suite team, and [the idea has] almost disintegrated with this journey of trying to get through everybody."
That isn't the case at Wonderful Agency, the in-house shop for The Wonderful Company, a holding company whose brands also include Fiji Water, Wonderful Pistachios and Wonderful Halos. Keene's philosophy is good ideas can come from anyone anywhere.
"My expectation, especially being in-house, is that we all are of the mindset that we can contribute in really creative, breakthrough ways. With stuff like this, good ideas really do come from everybody," she said. "Oftentimes, when people aren't so close to the brand, it's somebody that's working on other brands or someone who's doing something else, and says, 'Hey, did you think about that?' and you're like, 'Oh my God, it was right in front of us all the time.'"
To illustrate that philosophy, Keene tells an anecdote about searching the company's offices for a white chair for something the agency was shooting. The exec literally went floor by floor, meeting and talking with employees across a variety of disciplines and departments.
"That's kind of the way that I remember growing up in the industry, that you always knew everybody in every part of the process," she said. Before joining Wonderful in 2021, Keene worked at agencies including TBWA\Chiat\Day, Saatchi & Saatchi and Mullen Lowe U.S.
"I don't know if it's for everybody, but I love that camaraderie and that close collaboration that is happening in-house,” she said. “Let's get the gang together and have some fun and create some stuff."