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Why Frucor Suntory’s Keeping it Fun and Cheeky with V Refresh

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Clemenger BBDO attracts young adults with the V Bugs in new product launch campaign, discovers LBB’s Esther Faith Lew

Why Frucor Suntory’s Keeping it Fun and Cheeky with V Refresh

Clemenger BBDO Sydney’s well-loved V Bugs make a come-back to launch Fruco Suntory’s V Refresh, a new product category that resonates with the taste of Gen Z and other young consumers. The positive vibrant vibes generated by the V Bugs align with the brand’s aim to attract new potential energy drinks consumers as well.

Energy drinks consumption in Australia has kept a steady upward momentum over the years, spurred by its strongest growth in 2018 with an increase of 10.7% over 2017’s figure. 

Its market value in Australia stands at AU$1,439 million in 2022, which increased by 4.1% over 2019’s figure, according to MarketResearch.com. 

This demand is fuelled by key vibrant brands such as V that appeal to young generations of active students and adults in their 20s. Produced by Frucor Suntory, V energy drinks are one of the top brands in the market in Australia. Its signature bright green cans reflect a playful brand message, made popular by its V Bugs campaign. 

“We wanted to create an infectiously positive campaign for V Energy’s new refreshing sub-range of energy drinks, ‘V Refresh’. The brief was to continue the master brand  strategy of creating  positive vibes whilst landing the new variant and its flavours,” says Clemenger BBDO’s ECD Darren Wright.

In this campaign, Darren and his team brought back the playful and happy V Bugs to inject good vibes and smiles to audiences around Australia and New Zealand. He teamed up with Todd Mueller, director and founder of Psyop to bring to live the hilarious antics of the V Bugs.

Darren Wright, L, and Todd Mueller, R


“We needed a creative vehicle that allowed us to tell stories that our audience could relate to, and show authentic situations when V is drunk without just holding up a mirror to our target market.  Bringing back the bugs didn’t just play into the feel-good nostalgia of the original campaign.  It also gave us a chance to dial up the fun and entertainment and land the positive vibe message without it feeling overly try-hard or cheesy,” says Darren.

The creative approach provided the ideal canvas for the brand to have some fun and to bring smiles all around. Darren adds, “The world is serious. Life is serious. Brands can be a little serious. So, if your brand DNA is authentically on the fun side, like V Energy, why wouldn’t you have some fun with your advertising?”

LBB> Where does V Energy stand in the market of energy drinks and how does the campaign impact its market growth?

Darren> V Energy is moving away from the traditional association of energy drinks and extreme sports and instead focuses on the feeling the drink and brand give its customers.

The focus is on growing the category, which meant thinking differently, looking not just at current energy drinkers but also at potential energy drinkers. 

LBB> What are the psychographics of the consumers that are important for this product? 

Darren> We know customers love the taste of V Energy, but they are also starting to look for options that are better for them. This led Frucor Suntory to develop V Refresh, a lighter and crisp-tasting drink that still offers that iconic V burst of energy. 

The diversified recipe and vibrant contemporary packaging allowed us to create a launch campaign that was still connected to the heritage of the V Energy brand but could connect with a new audience.

LBB> Seeing that this is a come-back for the V Bugs, what were the positive results/feedback from its first appearance that justified its return for the promotion of V Refresh?

Darren> The response to the 2021 sing-along spot to an iconic upbeat soundtrack, Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", with the tagline "Can you feel it", resonated strongly with current energy drinkers and drove consideration among consumers who don't think about the brand or drink it yet.

LBB> Can you take us through the creative storytelling and process for this campaign? What was the thought process behind the character development of the V Bugs?

Darren> Synonymous with the brand during the noughties, V Energy's bug characters are instantly recognisable, plus the animation allows us to make everyday situations just funny, entertaining and exciting. ​​They play to V's tone of voice and bring out that fun personality. 

We wanted to create an authentic group of friends, each with their own character trait and personality, but very much a group with a strong bond and friendship.  The V Bugs, Muzza, Kaz, Roz and Pook – personify energy, social connection and fun. 

Each character was considered, with the production company dreaming them up based on the actor that would play the bug. They find the actor they'll use to play the bug, and then really understand how that actor would act, right, what he'd say and how he'd come across to give them a personality. 

LBB> What is the brand positioning and proposition it is meant to highlight?

Darren> The brand position for V Energy and, subsequently, V Refresh aims to spread positive energy. The tagline, “Can you feel it”, resonates strongly with current energy drinkers and drives consideration among consumers who don’t think about the brand or drink it yet.

While functional messaging of telling people we will give them energy is important, it doesn’t unlock the brand’s real potential, whereas talking about the ‘feeling of energy’ starts to engage a much broader audience. It also unlocks the opportunity for us to start communicating the sensory experience of V Energy and V Refresh.

LBB> In the production of the TVC, do share on the use of creative technology used and what was significant about it? 

Todd> The character designs were definitely more tricky on this project. We all wanted them to be very ‘insectile’, but human at the same time. A curious and unexpected sense of anthropomorphism. Finding that right blend between the insect's exoskeletons and compound eyes and the more human proportions and clothing styles required a lot of iterations for sure.   

Several animation packages were used for this, but Maya and Houdini were used for almost everything. 

LBB> How were the creative and technical execution carried out in the studio? 

Todd> The creative focus on this spot was all about the Flashdance waterfall moment and the full monty gag at the end. From a technical side of things having an anthropomorphic beetle dancing, backlit, under a CGI waterfall in slow motion was no simple task. From a creative perspective, we wanted a mix between Jennifer Beal's Flashdance bucket of water scene and Chris Farley's Chippendales skit, but with a friendly, slightly dorky humanoid insect. Through many iterations, I think we found the perfect blend.  

LBB> What challenges/considerations were involved in the production of the TVC? 

Todd> I think it's safe to say that combining a large CGI waterfall, slow-motion dancing, backlighting, interactive water splashes, and pixelated beetle bits, make for a rather challenging production.

LBB> What were the important takeaways/learning points in a creative and production context? 

Todd> Comedy is always tricky. It's much easier to get the timing wrong than to get it right. We know we needed to tell the joke in a loud and fun way, but at the same time, we didn't want to oversell it. For comedy to work it needs to feel spontaneous and effortless. The problem with animated comedy is that it's far from effortless or spontaneous. We're literally thinking about and crafting every pixel, every frame, every highlight and shadow by hand so it takes a certain gestalt to fully embrace all of these incredibly time-consuming, beautiful and tricky details and just have fun with it and be silly.

LBB> Besides the TVC, platforms for Outdoor, Social and BVOD were also utilised. Do elaborate on the strategy for their use and what was significant about each of them?

Darren> Through the infectiously positive TVC and compelling outdoor takeovers across Australia and New Zealand, the strategy was for audiences to be inspired to rethink their current views on energy drinks and continue to be delighted with V's upbeat branding.

Advertisements across BVOD and social rolled out with the underlying theme of "kicking off the afternoon with a refreshing drink", presented to consumers at a point in their day when they would consider a refreshing pick-me-up. 

We're thinking about how we bring the feeling of energy to life in TikTok and appeal to that young, Gen Z audience. V Energy has had some really good early success in the platform, and it's a great way to get to consumers who are hard to get to through other platforms, getting them to engage and interact.


LBB> How does V Refresh’s brand proposition lend itself well to the campaign platforms utilised? 

Darren> V Refresh is an extension of V Energy's big brand idea, "Can you feel it?" which was released in 2021. The whole proposition is built around putting positive vibes into the world, and this fun platform allows us to tailor the creative to work across all platforms. 

The platform's simplicity allows us to bring back the beloved V Bugs in a new refreshing sensation. The cascading waterfall and relaxing oasis setting surrounded by good friends help to communicate both the product benefits and occasions associated with V Refresh. As we drive awareness and curiosity with our new energy offering through this new creative, we hope consumers are also inspired to try something new. 

LBB> What are the key takeaways/learning points from a strategy perspective? What are the important factors to note in the energy drinks market in Australia and New Zealand?

Darren> It's too early to reveal the key takeaways from the campaign, but we're really happy with the results and all signs point to 

The energy drink market typically plays into extreme sports, rebellion and masculinity, and solo consumption. Our strategy and creative shifted to ensure the brand stays relevant to culture. Gen Z's motivation and needs are completely different to Millenials or Gen X, which will be our continuing focus. 

LBB> Moving forward, how will this campaign set the trajectory for the creative and strategic approach for the continued market growth of V Refresh in AUNZ?

Darren> Like above, our strategy and creativity reflect current culture, and the growth of V Refresh will be tied to how we match the needs and expectations of our audience. Right now, people are looking for a bit of an escape. They want to laugh and to be entertained; when you combine some fun, animated bugs with a nostalgic track and some strategic nudity, it puts a smile on people's faces. 


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Clemenger BBDO Sydney, Wed, 02 Nov 2022 06:50:52 GMT