john st.’s Cher Campbell tells LBB’s Addison Capper about writing a rap song with safety instructions for grocery chain No Frills
In a bid to educate customers and in no way remind them of "these uncertain times", Canadian grocery chain No Frills has entered the song writing market. And, to be fair, the tune, which is titled 'A Cart Apart' is both a low-key banger and actually really useful.
Created by Canadian agency john st., the champion line of the track is 'Keep A Cart Apart. Stay six feet at least or A Cart Apart'. But the more you listen, the more you are pulled into the song's other messaging, such as Keep Calm and Hauler On, tying into No Frills 'Hauler' brand message, which are repeated in creative ways throughout the song.
The campaign also gives back - for each view of the video on YouTube and No Frills social media, and for every stream of the song on Spotify and iHeartRadio, $1 will be donated to PC Children's Charity to a maximum of $50,000. (The YouTube video alone already has over 600,000 views.)
LBB's Addison Capper chatted with john st. executive creative director Cher Campbell to find out more about the creative process.
LBB> I love this! What was the inspiration behind launching a PSA in rap form?
Cher> We’re all being bombarded with so many similar messages right now that it’s so easy to tune it all out. We knew that since we had something pretty important to say – we had to say it in a way that people would actually want to listen to.
I think we can all agree that the last we thing we need is another “in these uncertain times” ad with soft piano music. So for this to break through we had to really lean into the bold No Frills tone. The result was a song about physical distancing at the grocery store that people are actually adding to their Spotify playlists.
LBB> What was the initial brief that led to this strategy? And why was this strategy the right approach? Why was serious not the way to go?
Cher> Basically, people weren’t following the rules. No Frills has always had a pretty unique in-store experience and the current situation just made it that much more intense.
The initial ask was pretty tactical, No Frills needed to remind people how to behave at the grocery store. Keep your distance. Don’t hoard products. Don’t touch every single melon. Sure, we could have just put up some signs with the guidelines on them but we knew it wouldn’t really make a difference, and that’s just not who No Frills is.
They have such a strong brand voice and do everything with this big, bold swagger. So rather than lean away from that and go soft like so many brands are doing right now, we leaned into it. I think that’s what really resonated with people.
LBB> What were the starting points when it came to writing the track? Where did you look to for inspiration?
Cher> If you’re going to get people to listen to a song about the rules at a grocery store, it’s gotta be good. Like, actually good.
We’ve always used these big, bold tracks in our No Frills ads. So we took inspiration from artists with a similar style who make the hit songs people love. Artists like Kanye, Travis Scott, and Canada’s own Drake. People have even been asking if he was involved in the project (for the record, he was not).
LBB> Keep A Cart Apart is a tagline that is weirdly catchy - how did you land on that?
Cher> It’s funny, it was initially written as a headline to go on the actual No Frills carts. We liked that it rhymed and when we tried it up against a beat, it really just worked. Now, it’s been stuck in our heads ever since.
LBB> What was the whole process like? You need to make a tune that is fairly entertaining but also mainly it needs to be useful and people need to understand it. How did you strike that balance?
Cher> If you go through and really look at the lyrics, they’re actually very straightforward and almost read like a set of guidelines. This is probably the first time ‘Follow The Rules’ has been used as a hip hop lyric, which is hilarious. Rather than trying to hide those guidelines we leaned into them, but just made them sound awesome.
We worked with SNDWRX in Toronto who’ve done all the music for No Frills over the past few years. They’re super talented and know the brand so well, which is what made turning the song around in about a week even remotely possible.
LBB> You've also kind of hidden the Hauler messaging within the track - how did you manage that?
Cher> Since we launched the ‘Hauler’ campaign in 2018, our customers have really latched onto it and actually use it to identify themselves. It’s now so ingrained with the brand that it’s become the way we naturally talk about grocery shopping. And the way our customers talk about it, too.
LBB> The film's visuals are really fun and playful too - who did you work with on that and what were your main aims and inspirations when it came to aesthetics?
Cher> We worked with The Vanity VFX, another long-time No Frills production partner who knows the brand inside and out. We knew the visuals had to be as fun and as bold as the track, and the words had to be easy enough to follow along with. Oh, and it all needed to be turned around in a matter of days.
Needless to say, we love where it ended up. I don’t think anyone ever thought physical distancing would look so fun.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Cher> Honestly, because No Frills has such a strong, well-defined brand voice and we were working with people who know the brand so well, the whole thing came together pretty smoothly.
Having some pretty amazing, smart and trusting clients didn’t hurt either. When we showed them the video they said ‘approved’ right there on the spot, and I think we all know that pretty much never happens.