Against The Grain: Making Cereal Ads For Generation Y

Like many of my contemporary college students I am a very big fan of breakfast cereals.  In fact—to us—it is not just breakfast cereal, but lunch cereal, dinner cereal, and late-night-snack cereal.  And despite our parents telling us to act our age we still have a place in our hearts, and our bowls, for children’s cereals. So when I recently saw Froot Loop’s “Bring Back the Awesome” advert I got that glittery feeling that one gets with a good ad, the feeling that says, “They’re talking to me.”

If you haven’t seen it, the ad depicts a young married couple sitting in their living room one night after the kids are in bed, and in order to have some quality alone time, the box of Froot Loops comes out, followed by 80’s video games and a childlike brouhaha.  Besides my first thought of how well this ad relates to people of my generation, I came to a realization: they are selling Froot Loops to adults.  Not in the traditional “If we get mom we get the kids” advertising method either; they really wanted this demographic to buy Froot Loops for themselves.  And when it comes to my generation that isn’t an unattainable goal.

Generation Y-ers have many stereotypes aligned with them: laziness, disloyalty, and oddly enough, nostalgia.  As proven by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer ad “Child of the 90’s” Gen Y-ers are so fond of their childhood that we occasionally try to relive it.

With these thoughts in the back of my mind I gave my mental kudos to the creator of the Froot Loops ad and accepted it as a fluke.

However not far after “Bring Back the Awesome” I saw an ad by Lucky Charms called “No Marshmallows.”  In a similar format to the Froot Loops ad a young woman pours a bowl of Lucky Charms only to find there are no marshmallows.  In convenient commercial style her husband walks in bearing a bowl of only marshmallows.  I was shocked again.  With the same silliness and nonchalant attitude toward adults eating children’s cereal Froot Loops and Lucky Charms were getting Generation Y in a way we very rarely are.

Gen Y’s nostalgia is such a unique trait that creating ads without it in mind seems foolish.  When a brand is able to connect on an emotional level the purchase decision is much easier.  Evoking memories can reconnect consumers who were once loyal to a brand, and probably forgot why they left in the first place.

When I think about these ads, I feel they are making the claim that these cereals are fun, taste good and make you feel young.  But unlike a new cereal that has to convince you they are these things, Lucky Charms and Froot Loops are simply using your memories to affirm their brands.  I can’t imagine a better way to keep your brand credible and authentic.

To me it seemed both companies realized that Generation Y never really grew out of their childhood cereals.  Yes, some of us have moved on to different cereals, but the nostalgia of “Bring Back the Awesome” is telling those of us who have “grown up” that there is nothing wrong with eating Froot Loops as an adult. In fact, you’ll probably have more fun eating them now than you did as a kid.

As you can tell, I could go on and on about how these ads target Gen Y-ers so well –from things like the short format of the commercials emulating Vine videos to the fashion and subliminal life stage mentions– these brands really get me.  And with that, I went to the grocery store, bought myself a box of Froot Loops and enjoyed a long-needed walk down 90’s memory lane.