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Summary

80% of primary school children don't eat enough veg. We needed to create a radical new advertising campaign to get the nations kids putting more veg on their plate and eating more healthily. To do this, we formed a unique alliance with Veg Power - the brand marketing campaign for vegetables (backed by Sir John Hegarty, Jamie Oliver, High Fearnley-Whittingstall) as well as Birdseye, and all the UK’s major supermarkets. This was our chance to make veg exciting again.

 

Challenge

Eat Them To Defeat Them is a radical new advertising campaign that aims to get kids eating more healthily.

adam&eveDDB devised the campaign for ITV and Veg Power with a bold new approach to promote veg. It is funded by a ground breaking alliance of all the UK's major supermarkets and Birds Eye.

The Food Foundation’s analysis of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that 80% of primary school-aged children don’t eat the recommended 3.5 portions a day. In fact, parents report that one in four children had no veg at all the previous day. The problem is even more acute for families on a low income, who are likely to be
eating on average half a portion less than those on a high income.

The decades old ‘eat your greens’ approach was no longer working. And even worse than that - this message has become part of the problem. Vegetables are now the least exciting thing on the plate and in the supermarket - and fewer kids are willing to eat them.

 

Insight

Let the kids call the shots: Too often mealtimes are battlegrounds. Coercion, bribery and threats become parents’ stock in trade to get kids to eat their veg. But this goes against a fundamental truth about kids and behaviour change. Kids learn best through play and fun. And just like adults, when we feel a sense of control and understand our actions to be based on our decisions (not someone else’s), we are more likely to carry on with them. If we were going to get kids to eat more vegetables, it was time to end the coercion and put kids in control - inviting them to call the shots. 

Identifying the enemy:  We acknowledged the awkward truth about the thing we were trying to promote: most kids hate vegetables. A mere mention of them would elicit a physical response in them: they’d recoil. Their faces contorted. Vegetables looked weird, smelt funny and made you fart. To kids, vegetables were gross. Like Marmite, we had the chance to harness the hate and do something interesting with it.  We asked ourselves ‘what if we made veg bad, not good?’ 

 

Idea

From this brief, adam&eveDDB created Eat Them to Defeat Them - an idea that didn’t just confirm the ‘fact’ that vegetables were gross, it heightened it. Vegetables became the perfect villain, one that deserved the response they got from children. They were evil things coming to take over the world. And the only way to defeat them is to eat them. It was an idea that changed the rules of the battle - putting both parent and child on the same side. It encouraged play. It made veg a source of enjoyment. And it was totally surprising. At last, vegetables had an idea that could help them fight back into kids’ lives and onto their plates. 

In a 60-second film, directed by Pulse Films' Ninian Doff, children are cast as the heroes in movie scenario with a horde of vegetables emerging "from underground to take over the world". The ad then depicts the kids chomping through a whole selection of veg in order "to eat them to defeat them".

This new strategy is designed in response to the rise in childhood obesity and diet related diseases with recent research finding 96% of teenagers and 80% of primary school age children don't eat enough vegetables (Veg Facts – The Food Foundation).

To launch the campaign, ITV provided airtime worth £2million. But to ensure the campaign lived beyond advertising spots, we went the extra mile to encourage kids to take up the fight. We engaged talent such as Tom Jones, Emma Willis, Will.I.Am and Ant and Dec; we commissioned a special episode of Scrambled, (a flagship CITV show); we placed posters within the set of Coronation Street, hosted debates in daytime talk shows and covered the campaign in regional news.  And, in an advertising world first, we put together an entire ad break which only featured ads promoting vegetables, right in the middle of one of our biggest Saturday night entertainment programmes.  

But the TV campaign was just the start.  The leading media agency Goodstuff helped us assemble a huge coalition of willing media owners, (inspired by the stunning creative work by Adam&EveDDB), to donate millions of pounds worth of media space in outdoor, cinema, print, as well as kids media, in particular, Beano Studios.  

Results

ETTDT reached nearly two thirds of the UK:

  • The campaign reached over 37.5 million people through ITV airtime, across 1,872 spots.  It reached 62% of all individuals, 44% of children and 65% of housepersons with children

  • The campaign was featured in over 5 hours of editorial content: ITV News, Lorraine, Good Morning Britain, This Morning, Loose Women and CITV all featured the campaign, across multiple different bits of content. Special pieces to camera ran from Ant and Dec, Tom Jones and Will.i.am. £1.6m of airtime value.

And had a brilliant social impact:

  • Brand and campaign mentions: 18,259

  • 300,000 reward charts distributed -10% of key stage 2 children

  • 3000 kids received cookery lessons in Lambeth

  • Veg invasion live event in Brixton

But most importantly, 650,000 children ate more vegetables as a result

  • 44% of children who’d seen the ad said people were talking more about vegetables recently

  • 38% of children aged 6-14 said made them want to eat vegetables

  • 29% of children said they’d eaten more vegetables as a result of the ad (the equivalent of 650,000 children)

  • YouGov survey of 1148 children aged 6-14, April 2019

 

And sales of veg increased - the equivalent of an extra portion of veg per week in every household with kids in the country!

We are delighted that Veg Power has joined with ITV to launch our very first campaign Eat Them To Defeat Them. With the aim of using ‘advertising for good’ and engaging and entertaining kids rather than using the well-worn health message, we can really shift the dial and hope to see long lasting behaviour change. Having all the major retailers will help us achieve huge reach and impact. It is vital that we achieve change in both supply and demand if we are to see real transformation of our food system and our work with both Peas Please and Veg Power are tackling both straight on. Baroness Rosie Boycott, Chair of Veg Power and trustee of The Food Foundation
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