How Oreo Ended Up Constructing a Doomsday Vault That Followers Voted the Greatest Advert Stunt of 2020
From a pandemic to murder hornets to UFO sightings, 2020 was essentially a series of moments we felt like extras in a never-ending film about the apocalypse.
And we mustn’t mention that on November 2nd, NASA reported that an asteroid was headed toward Earth’s atmosphere. The asteroid named 2018 VP1 only had a 0.41% chance to hit, but Oreo saw an opportunity to act ahead of the Potential Impact with a darkly humorous viral stunt – the winner of Adweeks Readers’ Choice Marketing Moments of the Year Bracket.
The cookie brand, in collaboration with agencies 360i and The Community, unveiled the Global Oreo Vault, a true asteroid-proof facility designed to protect the Oreo recipe. The vault was inspired by other “doomsday” seminal vaults that protect the world’s seeds in the event of a global catastrophe. The brand placed the vault in permafrost in Svalbard, Norway – specifically at coordinates 78 ° 08’58.1 “N, 16 ° 01’59.7” E – near the Svalbard International Seed Vault, known as the Doomsday Vault.
But how did the doomsday campaign come about? Oreo’s senior director Justin Parnell said the brand sent its agency partners an open letter this fall to “offer some playfulness” and “a little relief from all the worries and divisions in the world right now”. What specifically sparked the Vault concept, however, was a tweet from a fan on October 3rd asking who would save Oreos if Asteroid 2018 VP1 contacted.
“[The tweet] prompted the question, “How long would we go to save oreo cookies from a catastrophic event?” said Frank Cartagena, chief creative officer at The Community, New York. “Although the threat was minimal, we knew we didn’t want to live in a world without oreo cookies. Or worse, a world where only oatmeal and raisin cookies survived. Although we didn’t have time, we set out to build a miniature version of the global seed depot, right next to the original. ”
Oreo responded to the fan’s tweet with “Hold my milk” and 21 days later the brand and its agency partners revealed the finished product. Oreo promoted the stunt with a coordinated campaign and posted 40 social pieces of content over five days that resulted in the publication of a short mockumentary. Filmed in Oslo, it follows the journey of astronomers and project managers – portrayed by actors – building the vault.
The anticipation that Oreo sparked when he went dark on social for a few days after the cryptic tweet and slowly teased the movie through social content paid off. The brand reports that the stunt left nearly 100 million impressions across paid, organic social, and PR areas. 324,000 video views and 178,000 engagements; and more than 415 media placements in sales outlets such as Hypebeast, Food & Wine and CNet. According to Oreo, the content outperformed the CPG benchmarks by 59%.
Fans responded by slipping into Oreo’s Twitter DMs to ask about the vault’s security, floating conspiracy theories over the vault’s passcode, and asking where to find their own cookie packs wrapped in mylar, that was reserved for influencers. Brands like Sour Patch Kids and Burger King also took part in the Doomsday Vault discourse.
Parnell said the main reason the campaign was so successful was that it had real-time cultural conversation.
“Oreo is known for playing in pop culture, whether through limited product partnerships like our recently announced collaboration with Lady Gaga for social media moments like this,” said Parnell. “Not only did we jump into the social conversation about Asteroid 2018 VP1, we surprised fans by uniquely showing up with a playfully unexpected, exaggerated solution to the impending threat.”