Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

How Ricola’s Canadian Ads Ended Up in Germany

Advertising Agency
Toronto, Canada
FUSE Create’s Steve Miller and Lily Ljubicic, with Ricola Canada’s Alok Ummat, discuss ‘templatable’ campaigns, the value of reacting to data, and why it’s always good to have Ricola at the ready, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

When is the right time for a Ricola? Traditionally, the answer to this question would have been simple. The right time for a Ricola is when dealing with a cold, cough or sore throat - taking one lozenge every two hours (if needed), up to a maximum of 10 per day. However, following a recent extension in brand communication strategy - in collaboration with longtime partners, FUSE Create - Ricola Canada is reminding consumers that 'It's good to have Ricola at the ready’ for everyday use. 

Perhaps the most pressing question is why Ricola felt the need to adjust its position. After all, ‘cough/cold season’, in theory, should have been providing ample sales opportunities, both in the worldwide and Canadian markets. However, according to Ricola Canada's director of marketing, Alok Ummat, this ‘season’ wasn’t nearly as seasonal as some people might expect. “35 to 40% of sales are actually between April and September. But, historically, we've spent our marketing dollars during ‘cold season’ [December to February]. So, we started thinking, ‘You know what? There’s something about this brand which people find appealing for the everyday micro-moments - like the tickle in your throat, allergy season, fresh breath etc.'. So, we decided to see if we could test this theory.” 

Halving the Ontario market into ‘the Greater Toronto Area’ (GTA) and ‘outside of the GTA’, Ricola Canada and FUSE decided that they would focus on the GTA market as a testing ground - showing residents an entirely social-led, Ricola-branded creative that was intentionally not cough or cold-related. “This was something totally new for us,” Alok says. “We tested it against a control, and what proved really interesting was that our growth in the test market was six times more, our share doubled in this period, and our awareness tripled.”

It was very clear that the teams had found a fantastic opportunity. With 30% of Ricola’s consumption being non-sick related (even before the GTA testing), and research projects which found that the global herbal supplement market is expected to hit almost $120 billion before 2028, the obvious next step was to launch a full-scale campaign on a national level. 

But how to approach it? That was the challenge FUSE was forced to confront. Although the GTA testing had been successful, a national launch meant more eyeballs on the campaign, and more money on the line. As FUSE ECD Steve Miller puts it, leaning into what had worked was a good idea, but it was actually quite difficult to narrow down the list into a set of moments that would resonate with the largest number of people. “We were launching it with this brand new stock keeping unit (SKU), ‘Berry Medley’, so we had to make sure we’d got the right occasions,” he says. “We needed to depict moments where you might raise your voice or lose your voice, but more than this, they needed to be moments that people could relate to or moments that people have probably done before - being at a concert or on a roller coaster, or sitting there and cheering for your basketball team.” 

This latter case proved especially divisive. Due to the fact that the initial GTA ads were released during the covid-19 pandemic, when transitioning to national spots, this concern was still on FUSE’s mind. “We didn’t want to encourage getting together when that wasn’t allowed,” Steve says. “However, we made the decision to continue forward with this, because it's the idea that people gravitate to. Funnily enough, it went on to become one of the most viewed or most engaged posts that we had out of the four.”

With all these considerations firmly in mind, FUSE was finally able to begin working on the creation of Ricola’s online video advertisements. Made with stock video footage, each was developed in the first-person perspective to minimise movement - allowing viewers to focus on the hypothetical events where one might need a Ricola, such as when speeding down the tracks of a large roller coaster. 

This too proved to be a challenge. Hunting through mountains of stock footage to get the right footage, according to Steve, was the longest part of the entire process. However, FUSE’s collaboration with animation house The Faculty proved helpful in this regard, with senior VFX artist Daniel Kelly speeding up the process significantly, and helping bring the spots’ animated mouths and uvulas to life. 

Equally important to the production process was Vapor, an audio house, who handled the screams, yells and some of the texture. On this subject, Steve adds that what most people don’t know is that the scream in the roller coaster spot actually belonged to one of FUSE’s writers. “She had a fantastic scream,” he says. “It was actually perfect, and clearly it worked very well!” 

Now one month into the second iteration of the campaign - this time launching nationwide - FUSE account supervisor Lily Ljubicic says things seem to be going well. “We got good reactions, we got good results out of it, and at the same time, 'Berry Medley' has launched in the Canadian market, and become the hero of every day.”

Continuing, she adds that this points to the fact that the creative worked. “It was a big consumer perception pivot that we were making with this product - all while still trying to be known as a typical option for cough and cold - but I think it’s worked. Taking the opportunity to expand our everyday communications for the brand and going national with this campaign just made perfect sense for us, and it seems to be paying off nicely.”

Ricola Germany seems to share Lily’s perception. Due to the fact that the brand’s global team shares work with each other, following the GTA testing phase, Germany caught wind of the results and approached FUSE for help. For them, covid-19’s arrival had seen cough and cold sales diminish drastically, and the perception pivot Ricola was undergoing in Canada seemed like just the solution they needed. 

“It was the perfect creative for them to leverage, and they briefed us on it,” Lily says. “What made the campaign so exciting is that we still kept that creative of speaking from the uvula, and just localised the actual scenarios to the German market.”

To accomplish this, FUSE once again teamed up with Vapor, but this time, sought to ensure the yells and screams were as German-sounding as possible. In addition to this, the spots were heavily geared toward sports and outdoors enthusiasts, with an example being the Canadian basketball spot being replaced on the German market with a football (soccer) spot. 

According to Alok, the creative detail that FUSE included in the campaign, such as the uvula moving to the cheering, is not only brilliant, but has attracted the attention of Riocla’s global CEO. “When I saw the spot, I was just really happy,” Alok says. “So, I showed the team internally - my boss and the president of North America - and it got sent to the global CEO, and the global CEO said 'I love the spot! Everyone, look at this amazing stuff that Canada did!’ and sent it to his regional heads around the world.” 

As FUSE is Ricola Canada’s lead agency, as well as Ricola North America’s social agency of choice, there will be more exciting work coming out of the partnership, Alok confirms. “We're constantly looking at what we are going to do a year from now, two years from now, internally and externally. Internally, we have a pipeline of two to three years’ worth of new products and how they fit in, and we've been getting a lot better at trying to get ahead of the curve internally. What this means for us is that since the business has done really well in terms of this relationship, we're only going to double down. Next year, we think there's a lot more to uncover, and we have really aggressive plans.” 

In this spirit, Steve adds that FUSE just hosted a planning session for 2023 at the agency - hosting both the Ricola Canada team and the Ricola North American team. “Being brought in like that is amazing, because you get to go under the hood,” he says. “We love to bring proactive ideas, and I think that kind of relationship creates the most effective work. So, we're excited by the partnership and its continued growth.”

One of the immediate ideas which FUSE will be toying with is the concept of ‘templatable’ campaigns. While its most recent work in Canada and Germany didn’t start off with this intention, the model has proven to be efficient - both from a production standpoint, and also from a seasonal targeting perspective. 

“What we learned along the way is that when you do this kind of template campaign for a global brand like Ricola, it leads to a really interesting creative approach,” Steve says. “And what I love about this particular campaign is that we’ve helped show the North American brand that it’s OK to move away from coughs and colds. By going to the everyday mentality, this campaign has become more relatable - because consumers have probably lived the experiences we’re depicting.” 

Alok shares Steve’s enthusiasm, commenting that this consistent desire to challenge each other is what makes FUSE such a joy to work with. “A lot of times, the creative makes me feel uncomfortable, but that's what their job is,” he says. “We're transparent - whether something's not working creatively, people-wise or in meetings - and I think that’s what enables us to work together to make the best plan.” 

Steve builds on this, adding that the super collaborative nature of their work is what pushes them in the right direction. “I think this campaign - among even the other things we've done - is one we're particularly proud of,” he says. “And just getting this validation and seeing our work take off nationally and internationally - it’s a sign that we’ve done something well.”