Ad Of The Month

Veganuary Ad Tugs Heartstrings For Rügenwalder Mühle 

Germany: Rügenwalder Mühle 


Fear of change is natural, but embracing it brings happiness. That’s the message of Rügenwalder Mühle’s new ad, which does a great job giving a sad story a happy ending. The subtext is also clear. The brand, which for most of its 180 years made meat pastes and products, has now become the German market leader in the vegan food sector, and wants customers to evolve with it.

This ad is a strategic change, too. The Rügenwalder brand has generally relied on a traditional product-first advertising strategy, with short ads explicitly about its food products. This time, though, they’ve gone for a minute long storytelling ad with the product more subtly featured. The idea is to spark emotional connection with customers during ‘Veganuary’ and nudge them towards making changes to their own habits.

The vehicle for this is a story about a young boy who gets some surprising news – he’s going to be a brother. While his parents are excited about the new arrival, for the boy it’s a time when he has to deal with some harsh realities of change – his old playroom is repainted and his toys replaced with ones for the new baby. Finally the day comes and his Mum and new sibling return home. He runs off – is he unhappy? No – in fact he has gone to get the baby a slice of toast with vegan spread on, so he can share his favourite snack with her.

On paper that might not sound like a great story but it’s all in the execution – there’s a superb performance by the child actor starring as the boy and the music and direction combine to hit every emotional beat perfectly. The level of sadness is high – but there’s a real surge in happiness when the story ends and we realise it’s all going to be OK.

If the ad has a flaw it’s that its branding could be a bit stronger. While it scores a strong 4.0-Stars for emotional response and long-term effects, its Brand Fluency is a bit weaker. This is something we often see when a brand makes the move from highly functional, product-driven advertising to more emotional storytelling. Fortunately, it’s a problem that’s easily solved – simply introduce brand cues a little earlier (like a discreet logo at the start of the ad) and you can remind your audience who you are without damaging the storytelling experience.

Overall, Rügenwalder Mühle’s move into emotional advertising is a success, with high scores for a brand that’s very familiar but doesn’t have a lot of buzz. If the storytelling strategy continues at this level of execution, the brand’s lead in the plant-based food sector will only grow.