Ad Breakdown: Weetabix’s “Withabix”

Lewis Folkard

Lewis Folkard

Suffolk-based conversion copywriter.

Weetabix ad with "paediatrician" spelt buy a baby

Welcome to the next part of an unintentional 2-part series of baby ads. You can catch “part one” here. Today’s ad isn’t about baby food, nor does it use a baby in the same way… so let’s explore.

Ad info

Weetabix’s infamous tagline, “Have you had your Weetabix?”, started in the 90s. As we’ll see shortly, today’s ad from the 2001 D&AD annual, reinforces this tagline in a clever way.

Credit to:

  • Art Directors: Alan Davis, Rodger Stanier
  • Copywriters: Jez Willy, Alan Davis
  • Photographer: Mike Parsons
  • Creative Director: Charles Inge
  • Agency: Lowe Lintas

Techniques

Like a lot of great advertising, this ad takes a simple message and exaggerates the hell out of it. But it does so in a fun, light-hearted way using wordplay.

Wordplays and puns are a little taboo in advertising. To a lot of creatives, they’re a bit of a cop-out because the (large) number of poorly-executed wordplays has given them a bad rep.

Now, of course, they do have their risks. If they’re too complex, they can be misunderstood. If they’re too easy, they can be insulting. If they don’t connect, they can look forced (and create bad brand associations). And then, if they’re not executed elegantly enough, they can dilute the message of the ad and leave no clear takeaway.

But… when a wordplay is executed well, there are several theoretical benefits. Before we look at them, let’s understand what we’re dealing with.

Wordplays

This ad has two types of wordplay. One in the brand name. One in the “copy”.

“Weetabix” is known as a portmanteau. According to Google, this is a word that blends the sounds and combines the meanings of two others – like motel or brunch.

“Withabix” is known a “spoonerism”. This is where you swap the initial consonants or sounds of two or more words to create a new word, phrase or expression. The other part of this campaign – which email subscribers got – also used a spoonerism with the word “Withoutabix”.

With a wordplay brand name, it feels natural to use wordplay advertising, no?

Mental availability

Okay, so, the main benefit of a well-executed wordplay is the increase in mental availability (i.e., your ability to come to mind before your competitors).

When “Withabix” sounds so similar to “Weetabix”, it makes you re-read the ad. The art – or new “logo”- only feeds this further. It seems the creatives are baiting you into making this “intentional mistake” because when you check yourself, you spend more time with the ad, increasing memorability and mental availability. Clever.

The light-hearted nature also means the “mistake” doesn’t damage the brand but enforces positive associations. This further boosts mental availability.  

Simplicity

Weetabix’s strapline pushes a simple value prop: you’re capable of more when you’ve had your Weetabix. This ad – and much of their advertising – reinforces this. Good.

And because it’s so simple, it’s not just easy to remember, it’s also easy for creatives to work with. The campaign becomes incredibly versatile. In today’s “media-first” advertising, ad concepts are watered down to aid distribution. But here simplicity protects the idea and makes it easy to share.

Conclusion

Exaggeration through wordplay. There are two wordplays present: a portmanteau and a spoonerism. Wordplays have their risks, but also several benefits. The light-hearted nature and simplicity of the idea (and execution) boosts mental availability and makes it easy to appreciate.

Get extra insights with the next one

As I mentioned above, email subscribers got to see “Withoutabix” ads from the 2001 D&AD annual. If you want to get the extra insights for the next breakdown, sign up for my newsletter.

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