Ad Of The Week: SMA

Little Steps



The marketing of formula milk for babies has a fraught history. Since the 1980s, campaign groups like Baby Milk Action have called for tough standards on baby milk advertising and called companies to account when they breach those rules.

For instance, there’s a legal requirement to distinguish between infant formula milk (whose advertising is very restricted) and “follow-on” milk for children over 6 months, which companies can advertise on TV. Which is why all the tots in SMA’s latest “Little Steps” ad for its milk formula are hearty and highly active toddlers.

The ad celebrates the messy but delightful phase kids go through when they learn to walk and start experimenting with their surroundings. A folksy voiceover – with a regional twang boosting the ad’s right-brained appeal – builds empathy and brings the viewer onside.

Cynics might say it’s not just the milk being made to a formula here. The montage-of-kids-playing ad is a familiar format, and one that travels across cultures well. This ad was originally shown in Poland and Romania, with only mildly different mixes of kids.

But the question shouldn’t be: have I seen this before? It should be: even if I have, does it still work?

There are formulaic ads which have long since lost their power to inspire or excite audiences – aerial shots of cars driving through mountains, for instance. But some familiar styles still do the job. SMA’s ad scored a very strong 4.7-Stars – whether they’ve seen similar work or not, it still delights viewers. The 1.3 Spike score is a very good result for SMA too.

At the risk of stretching a metaphor, maybe creativity is a bit like baby milk. There’s no substitute for the real thing – strong, original work that helps a growing brand. But at times you don’t have access to that, and opting for a proven formula is the next best option.