Build me up, Buttercup

Get back in the kitchen.

No longer is that sentiment the sole preserve of Alt-Right white supremacist Twitter misogynists. Now it’s the central message of Wieden + Kennedy’s latest campaign for Lurpak.

“Game on, Cooks” (or #GameOnCooks, if you’d rather) is based on a simple insight – people in the UK are spending more time consuming culinary-based media and spending less time cooking. Their answer to this situation is a rallying cry for everyone to swap their smart phone for a saucepan, their Kindle for a knife and to grab a pack of Lurpak to grease the pan while you’re at it.

The strategy is simple and deceptively clever, but what’s best about it is the tone it strikes. The premise of the ad is based on a well-observed facet of modern life and, rather than admonishing people for their behaviour, it simply acknowledges it and challenges people to start putting their money where their mouth is in the kitchen.

It’s not mocking or lampooning anyone who follows foodie blogs on Instagram or anyone who watches The Great British Bake Off, it’s just showing that it understands them. Most people who do that stuff quite fancy themselves as a bit of a chef so gently encouraging viewers to dig out their chopping board and get involved makes plenty of sense. The distinction it draws between being a spectator or player is a neat one and it taps into collective concerns about leading an overly passive lifestyle. It doesn’t criticise, it just understands how easy it is to fall into that habit, all while offering their brand as a corrective to it.

The execution of the creative is a good bit of craft, adopting a cinematic language that isn’t typically used for food brands. The deeply intoned voiceover spouting motivational platitudes over a montage displaying the physical and mental tolls that are required to succeed have been mainstays of ads for sports brands such as Adidas or Under Armour for a long time. In fact, the fundamental concept behind this campaign – our product allows you to be a competitor and to participate in an activity to the best of your ability – is essentially Nike’s entire marketing modus operandi.

This co-opting of the trappings of sports advertising in order to reposition cooking as a physical activity is underscored by the choice of ‘spectator’ and ‘player’ – both terms with sporting connotations. So while the individual devices used in this ad aren’t particularly original, the juxtaposition with the source material is inventive and signals a departure from the way that food preparation is conventionally portrayed in advertising.

Gone is the traditional depiction of the nurturing side of cooking, or the image of food as comfort. We’ve swapped Sunday lunch around the dinner table and the pseudo-eroticism of those M&S food ads for the graft of scaling a fish and tears while chopping an onion. It’s a striking subversion and the execution lands well, with the significance of the brand made central at the end providing a clear call to action.

Although it may seem slightly counter-intuitive (people are watching too much food-based media, so let’s change that by producing more food-based media), this is a smart, well-made ad that uses a simple insight to create a different, eye-catching approach to advertising food.

This is exactly the sort of campaign that would slot in perfectly alongside The Great British Bake Off, whose recent acquisition by Channel 4 opens the show up to brands who want to capitalise on its popularity. Anyone buying ad space around the show would do well to think about how audiences actually interact with food media in the same way that W+K have with Lurpak.

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