Farah Dib, co-founder and creative director at Twenty, spoke to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about how the Danish ice lolly brand’s campaign breaks the stigma around perfect parenthood and how this relates on a deeper level with what Sun Lolly stands for
As with everything else in life, parenthood is one of the spheres where we as people feel the most pressure, and it has been heavily affected by the rise of social media in recent years. Not only do your favourite influencers plaster footage of their adorable babies on social media, but also their tips and tricks, their picture-perfect family holidays and their seemingly always aesthetically pleasing living rooms; it all amounts to more and more pressure on parents. The 40-year-old staple in Danish snacking, the freeze-at-home ice lolly brand Sun Lolly knows that, and also knows that eating an ice lolly can become a moment of presence between a parent and their child.
Following a 2022 YouGov poll which found that 90% of Danish mums and dads feel social media’s constant perfectionist, parenting pressure, Sun Lolly teamed up with Copenhagen creative agency Twenty to create a campaign that will break through these walls. As a run-up to National Parenting Day, which was on the 24th of this month, Sun Lolly and Twenty launched their new emotional brand activation, with real parents reflecting on their experiences of parenthood. Underpinned by the catchphrase ‘Don’t Be Perfect, Be Present’, the campaign film connects the idea that Sun Lolly is the perfect shared family moment, re-establishing it as an iconic Danish brand and also breaking preconceptions attached to what it means to be a parent.
The film begins with parents from different backgrounds partaking in an experiment, being asked various questions about their parenting style, insecurities and reflections on their parenting so far. All of them end up sharing emotional insights into their constant worry about whether they’re good enough; whether they’re doing something wrong; overall, the pressures of raising a person fully separate from yourself.
Then the screens in front of them switch from showing pictures of ‘perfect’ and curated social media shots of toddlers and babies with their mums and dads, to their own kids, telling the camera why their parents are the best. Needless to say, the experiment leaves the parents - and us - in tears.
LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Farah Dib, co-founder and creative director at Twenty, to find out why this campaign was crucial for the reinvention of the brand in the Danish market and how this experiment was perfect for the job.
LBB> What was the brief for this campaign and how did you go about your first conversations surrounding it?
Farah> Sun Lolly is an iconic triangle-shaped Scandinavian freeze-at-home ice lolly and one of Denmark’s most loved and iconic brands. But after years of tactical messaging and price squeezes, the brand didn’t have an emotional connection to its audience anymore. The fear was that over time, the brand would completely lose its relevance.
We started the journey of building a strong brand strategy and shifting the perception around the brand by conducting a large-scale qualitative research study including interviews with children, parents and grandparents from our four key markets: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany.
A very clear picture quickly emerged. Sun Lolly as a product is, frankly speaking, “just” a simple, cheap, accessible and convenient treat. Loved by both kids and parents, but not something you’d exactly brag about to your friends. Instead, our social media feeds are filled with #homemade #pictureperfect #organic sourdough cupcakes and perfectly decorated birthday cakes.
Our biggest challenge became finding a space within this world where Sun Lolly could play a meaningful role. And we very much found that in our cultural research that revealed a generation of parents under immense pressure to perform an idea of parenthood that in no way represented reality. It was this problem at the core of modern parenthood that became the springboard for the whole brand strategy and creative platform we have since built.
LBB> What kind of research went into the campaign and what were your findings?
Farah> We have a holistic approach to understanding consumers and always begin by studying not just audience behaviours and emotional drivers, but also intersecting insights about culture, community, category and the brand itself. That‘s what allows us to identify the space where the brand can play a meaningful role in consumers’ lives.
We found an interesting product truth that could underpin and anchor the work in something unique and ownable. Sun Lolly has to be cut open by an adult, has to be eaten with two hands, and takes time to enjoy – giving families a moment of presence together. This presented an opportunity for the brand to leverage a perceived weakness – price point, an unpretentious look and feel, and accessibility – and turn it into a strength.
Sun Lolly might not be the treat you bring out to impress on your digital feed, but in the busy every day, it gives parents a moment of presence with their kids – the only ones they really should be focusing on.
Alongside this, we also conducted a YouGov Study delving deeper into parenthood in Denmark. Existing data had revealed that 6 out of 10 parents* report feeling under pressure to be ‘perfect’ and live up to unrealistic parenthood ideals. But our YouGov report showed the problem to be even more pronounced in Denmark where 75% of parents** are feeling this way. *The Telegraph, 2019, **YouGov 2022.
That’s when we knew we were onto something.
LBB> How did you come up with the format of the film - showing the parents an imagined perfect world of parenthood, then asking them about their biggest insecurities, and finally showing them the clips of their own children?
Farah> Both our own research and existing data confirmed that the pressure to be ‘perfect’ is a trend driven by curated social media feeds and images of unachievable parenthood bombarding us through pop culture and media. To highlight this tension at the core of our modern society, we needed to find a creative vehicle that could bring our audience with us on this journey into the damaging effects of seeking validation from the outside, and bring this insight to life in a way that would speak to their hearts and minds.
In the experiments, the parents are subjected to some of the images they’re used to seeing in their own social feeds before they're asked to reflect on how it makes them feel as mothers, fathers, and individuals. By allowing ourselves to execute a concept that is much more a social experiment than a predetermined film, we were able to get a level of authenticity you could never fabricate – by giving up control, we gained insight we could have never ever written ourselves to.
At the centre of the idea is the proposition: ‘Don’t Be Perfect, Be Present’ – because time spent chasing likes on Instagram is time wasted – time that could be better spent with your kids. By bringing real, relatable parents to this vulnerable realisation in a studio, we were able to in the process take our audience on this journey of understanding that constant exposure to a culture of perfection comes at a high cost. The children are the ultimate proof that no matter how hard we judge ourselves, we are in fact perfect to them, and the efforts they notice are never the big and impressive gestures that our social feeds would benefit from, but the moments we have together.
LBB> What was it like to work with the kids and what was the most fun part of it?
Farah> It probably comes as no surprise that the kids were the biggest source of insight and heart on set. Brutally honest, simple and clear, and completely uncontrollable – they presented the most unpredictable variable of the film, but that’s also where the real gold emerged. Their varying ages, backgrounds and family situations also served to underline our core insight as they all emphasised the same admiration for their parents. What matters to them is simply not the sourdough cupcakes and one-off bouncy castles in the garden – it’s eating chips at the swimming pool and jumping in dad’s bed.
LBB> Did you find that more women or more men feel more pressure to be the picture-perfect parent?
Farah> Women and men in our experiment shared similar insecurities and questioned themselves and their ability to live up to others’ expectations of them as parents. However, the women were at large more affected by the imagery that depicted beautiful homes, flat post-pregnancy bellies and smiling children, while the men expressed self-critique around their ability to be present, appreciate what they had and balance life with spending time with their kids – like the men in some of the images they were exposed to seemed able to.
LBB> How do you think campaigns related to parenthood should change to depict a more realistic representation of parenthood and family life?
Farah> As long as we continue to portray unachievable ideals in advertising, we’ll be part of the problem. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aspirational, we just need to challenge the stereotypical values that have long underpinned our ideas. I look forward to seeing more realistic, hard-hitting and real depictions of all aspects of human living, loving and suffering. Consumers are whole people, and we shouldn’t be afraid of approaching some of the less palatable and rosy aspects of their lives in our work – the result will inevitably be a more diverse, realistic and relatable representation of parenthood, or any other subject we’re tackling.
LBB> What was the most emotional moment on set?
Farah> We knew there was emotional weight to the concept before we went on set, but seeing our parents express their emotions in such an honest and vulnerable way was eye-opening. And that moment came when the kids were introduced. It was as if the cameras had suddenly disappeared. There are so many clips and wonderful quotes from the kids that we weren’t able to include in the final edit, but it’s safe to say there was hardly a dry eye on set.
LBB> How long did the campaign take from start to finish?
Farah> The strategic work started in 2020, and the platform first came to life in our ‘Fool For You’ campaign that ran last year and tells the heartwarming story of a father who does everything to make his daughter smile, no matter how silly it makes him look to the rest of the world. This year’s campaign is the stepping stone in building the brand for the long term - a journey that has only just started!
LBB> What were the biggest strategic challenges of the campaign?
Farah> Working with the unpredictability of real people, collecting the vast number of social media images and building a set that would be an experience not just to watch on film afterwards, but that would evoke and disarm our participants and allow them to open up to us.