Pillsbury Cooks Up a Winner

Learning to count



General Mills’ Pillsbury brand is regularly featured in our annual lists of best ads – their holiday season ads tend to perform particularly well, and they’ve racked up plenty of 5-Star scores. But they’re also a brand the ad industry never seems to make much of a fuss about. They don’t run issue-based campaigns, they don’t feature big-name celebrities, they don’t ask for user-generated content. Their adverts are – let’s be honest – often quite similar to one another, generally sticking closely to short and sweet family baking scenarios.

This latest ad is a great example – it’s a commercial for Pillsbury Grands, whose selling point is their “flaky layers”, and the ad is simply two kids counting the layers in one of the pastries. It’s 15-seconds long, and it’s ended up with 5-Stars and a very strong Spike score of 1.47 – predicting both a strong short-term sales lift and excellent brand-building potential.

The Pillsbury Grands ad isn’t going to win any creativity awards – it’s a successful, well-known brand doing what they do and not deviating an inch from a winning formula.

But there’s more than one kind of creativity. Creativity can mean doing something wildly original. It can also mean using what you know about what works to make sure that no second of a short ad is wasted.

Just look at all the emotional and branding elements Pillsbury packs in here.

  • A familiar brand and distinctive asset – the Pillsbury Doughboy, who communicates the brand instantly.
  • A scenario which isn’t a hard sell about the product but spotlights a fun family activity – kids learning to count – in a way which still makes the product the hero.
  • Two likeable child leads playing together, bringing between-ness and dialogue into the ad.
  • A jaunty, jolly soundtrack.
  • And a final incident to cap off the commercial, with one kid pinching a layer from the other’s Pillsbury Grand.

All of these elements, by the way, appeal strongly to the right-brain, which as Orlando Wood demonstrated in Lemon, makes for a more effective ad.

It’s easy to pass over this type of ad, but Pillsbury’s record of making emotional winners is remarkable – this is its eleventh 5-Star ad and it’s one of the few brands to have never made a 1-Star commercial. It’s the product of consistent branding over the years, and a dedication to craft which means that Pillsbury can make people feel more in 15 seconds than most brands manage in 60.