Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Modern Family: JWT London on Bringing Back the Oxo Clan

Advertising Agency
London, UK
The Oxo family is back – with a 21st century update

J. Walter Thompson welcomed back the OXO family to British TVs this week. Made famous in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the OXO family reflected real, contemporary family life - however, their modern day counterparts are a little different from when the previous campaign wrapped in 1999. Research by JWT Intelligence revealed that the chaotic schedules of 21st century life led to parents being even more involved in their children’s lives, as well as dads increasingly joining mums at the emotional heart of the family.

LBB caught up with J. Walter Thompson London creatives Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner, and planning director Alex Huzzy to find out more. 

LBB> Why is now the right time to bring back the Oxo family?

Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner> People loved the original Oxo family. Oxo is still at the heart of the 'magic hour' of getting tea ready after school, helping make food delicious. Using a family really helps express this. The Oxo family is part of British advertising heritage, and updating them for the 21st century allows us to keep something special on British TV while telling helpful stories about Oxo.

LBB> When you were building the family, what sort of research did you do into the dynamics of modern families?

Alex Huzzy> A lot of what is written about modern family life is based on a curiously nostalgic belief that technology has changed everything for the worst, and that the warmth and closeness of the Lynda family just doesn’t exist anymore. We were determined to find out if this was really true, and to make sure that our representation would be both realistic and relatable. At every stage in the creative development process we drew on real insights. Our first port of call was JWT Intelligence’s ‘Modern Family’ report, a bespoke project for Premier Foods combining extensive desk research into existing insight from academic, government and commercial sources with bespoke quantitative research by JWT Sonar which looked at family behaviours across the UK. Subsequently we qualitatively researched the scripts at an early stage with a cross-section of UK mums, specifically looking at the roles of each of the family members and what was not only credible but aspirational too.

LBB> What elements from the original Oxo family did you feel it was really important to preserve?

Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner>They need to feel like they are a genuine, believable family. They need to have ups and downs like any family, rather than appear perfect, stereotyped or clichéd.

LBB> I like how the Mum and Dad are presented as a team in the kitchen, in both spots - was it a conscious effort to break the traditional gender roles that we still often see in advertising? I'm really curious to know whether there was a conversation about this or if it was something that was just naturally obvious to you as being more reflective of how families cook?

Alex Huzzy> There were lots of conversations about this. We knew things had moved on and changed since the days when Lynda and Katie single-handedly had a casserole on the table by 6pm come what may, but equally we also knew that gender roles were by no means obsolete in many UK households. We didn’t want to paint a picture which would be impossibly egalitarian and unrealistic, but equally we didn’t want to show mum tied to the oven all day either. Research helped us hit the right balance, where the reality of modern-day hectic family life means that inevitably both parents and often older kids too are drawn into getting food on the table. 

LBB> At the same time this isn't an ad that's making a massive point about diversity or stereotypes, it's just kind of normal (and that's a really positive thing). At the agency is there a conscious effort to question stereotypes, etc. in all the work that you're doing? Has it been informed in any way by the Female Tribes project?

Alex Huzzy> Most definitely. The Female Tribes project has made us even more aware of the responsibility we have in how we portray and appeal to female audiences. However, the great thing about Female Tribes is that it’s not about pushing a utopian vision, but rather celebrating how things are and what women are already achieving. That’s the approach we’ve taken with Oxo – just showing modern family life for what it is at its best – more like a team game where everyone has everyone else's backs.

LBB> The cast are so important for a campaign like this. Personally I am just in love with the little brother and sister! I was wondering what you were looking for when casting the main family members?

Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner> They are actual brother and sister. We wanted the family to feel like they belong together so it helps actually having a brother and sister. Mum and dad need to be likeable and they all need to gel. The little’uns are proper characters and the teenager (Lucy) is a really good actor – it's vital to have kids who can deliver what you need. 

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