The Right-Brained Rise Of Kevin The Carrot
Kevin The Carrot
‘Twas the night before Christmas, a carrot gazed at the sky.’
It’s 2016 and we open on Kevin the Carrot. He’s watching a shooting star as it falls to earth. Four years later and from that same window it’s Kevin’s son who’s gazing at the stars. Except it’s not a shooting star that he glimpses, as he thinks, but Dad falling from the sky! How will Kevin get back home in time for Christmas this year?
Kevin the Carrot (Aldi/McCann) has become an annual event since hitting our screens in 2016 and his star is far from waning. Quite the reverse. This campaign has been getting stronger each year, moving up from 3-Stars in its first years, to 4-Stars last year and topping out this year at 5.8 Stars in System1’s testing. Kevin even appeared in the brand’s early pandemic advertising. A good move, because recurring characters such as Kevin connect even better in times of crisis, as System1’s testing has shown.
Long-running recurring characters – fluent devices, as I call them – can take a little time to build. They can be difficult to create (it took Warner Bros several attempts before they got Bugs Bunny right), but once you’ve captured them and their world, they’re extremely effective. This is because they hold the audience’s attention and elicit an emotional response; they are also easy to recognise and build a brand’s salience effortlessly for the audience. In other words, they are noticeable and memorable, and yet, they have almost disappeared from advertising.
In addition to having a recognisable recurring character, the Kevin campaign also has incident and place. These are three common features of campaigns that result in very large market share and profit gains, as I show in my recent film Achtung! for EffWorks Global 2020.
This year’s Kevin ad also delights with features I describe as highly effective in Lemon (IPA, 2019): music (the same recurring Christmas track); references to popular culture (Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean and ET) and a sense of ‘betweenness’, with dialogue and interplay among the characters. It introduces a few new faces too, building out the ‘brand world’ – the turkey, the hedgehog and, of course, Santa. There’s wordplay, a knowing self-awareness (it doesn’t take itself too seriously), and a re-assuring sense of permanence to the whole piece.
As the hedgehog says at the end, ‘Did I seem grumpy at the beginning?’
‘Well, you can be a bit prickly. Merry Christmas, everyone!’, says Santa, to the child in all of us.
Just some of the reasons, I suspect, why the public adores the campaign and instantly recognises it as Aldi. And just some of the reasons why this campaign gets my vote for Favourite Campaign of 2020.