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Turning a biscuit ad into a movie

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In 2016 the biscuit category in New Zealand was stale. Mainstream biscuits and crackers, cupboard staples for generations, were being overlooked. Driven by innovation and the growth of different snacking options, the biscuit category was awash with more interesting or permissible snacking products. 

New brand and product launches drove increased investment in sweet and savoury snacking with category ad spend +10% YOY, but with Arnott’s budgets down 30% YOY, old favourites were increasingly left off the subconscious shopping list. This was bad news for Arnott’s, whose brands were being substituted by broadening snacking repertoires and were hardly living up to their company ethos: ‘there is no substitute’.

Unable to accept that this was the way the cookie would crumble, it needed something big to arrest decline across all brands. Years of spending at a brand level combined with a shrinking share-of-voice, drove the decision to resurrect the entire Arnott’s portfolio via a master-brand approach.

Marketing Challenge: Reverse YOY sales declines and re-establish Arnott’s by making biscuits relevant to modern day Kiwi life. To make the challenge harder, a master-brand approach meant appealing to a broad and varied target audience, with products that fit a range of different mindsets.

It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Research confirmed the agency’s insight that while still beloved if a little forgotten; biscuits would be far more conspicuous by their absence than their presence. 

What would happen if NZ’s favourite biscuits were suddenly absent from everyday life?


With multiple audiences to appeal to and several products to feature, the standard FMCG strategy using a 30” ad at 300 Tarps per week wasn’t going to cut it. 

Y&R Engage’s communications strategy was to dramatise the disappearance of biscuits from life as we know it, making them the hero of a story that felt as big as a feature film.

Every media moment had to become a talking point; earning a disproportionate amount of attention, creating earned momentum through to purchase. It needed to capture the attention of the nation: fast tracking scale and resurrecting the love for Arnott’s brands quickly.

National heroes, scale, attention-grabbing and a NZ-wide appeal. Only one thing in NZ delivers all these things: the mighty All Blacks, the world’s #1 rugby team and the darlings of the nations’ media. 

With as many social media followers as the entire NZ population, the All Blacks were the best partner to leverage the scale it needed. But with 30+ sponsors the number of ‘black-washed’ products to outshout was massive.

The focus on biscuits as the unsung hero of the pantry uncovered untapped potential in approaching the All Blacks. By partnering with their unsung hero, legendary coach Steve Hansen, it could steer clear of typical sponsorship activity.

The agency was on a mission to tell the story of unsung heroes and missing biscuits. So why not take the strategy literally and make an epic movie.

Introducing: Apocalypse Steve Hansen – Don’t Lose Your Biscuit. 

A film starring Steve Hansen, Zoe Bell (of Tarantino fame), All Blacks players and a whole lot of ‘absent’ Arnott’s biscuits that have supposedly sparked a world-wide apocalypse.


Every media moment was designed to replicate a huge movie release: ads became trailers, consumer promotions became auditions, money can’t buy prizes became red-carpet film star moments: all designed to sell all the way through to the biscuit packet on shelves.

The apocalypse hit with two 60 second film trailers in TV, Cinema and YouTube offering two theories as to how the apocalypse may have begun; both focused on missing biscuits as the cause. In an instant Kiwis were reminded of the power of biscuits. 

The phrase “never, ever lose your biscuit” was adopted into the Kiwi vernacular overnight, with everybody talking about the countries’ hottest heroes – Steve, Arnott’s Tim Tams and Arnott’s Shapes.

“Movie posters” emerged on billboards, buses, mall doors and cinema nationwide.

Next its heroes launched a rallying cry across the web for Kiwis to play their “part” in the film, completely subverting typical consumer promotions associated with the All Blacks and allowing Arnott’s to steer clear of the ‘black-washing’ approach to on-shelf activation.

Continuing momentum towards the film release, the agency ran dynamic countdown banners across the hottest entertainment sites, whilst an extended trailer ran across national television. 

To launch with a bang, the film was featured as the top content on NZ’s largest video site, YouTube. Finally, the film hit the big screen in cinema’s all over the country as a special feature, giving all Kiwis the chance to see how finding Arnott’s biscuits led its heroes to save the world.


The apocalypse hit immediately making headlines; featuring across New Zealand’s most influential news outlets online, in print, radio and television.

- Total 18.4million opportunities to see earned media
- Over 1,500 screenings of the short film in cinema
- Over 6.6 million views of the film content (1.4x NZ population)

‘Never, ever lose your biscuit’ became the catchphrase of 2017, with All Blacks quoting it in press conferences, news anchors dropping it into features and Kiwis hash-tagging across social channels. 

• 241 pieces of earned media leading to 18.4 million opportunities to see
• 85% positive campaign sentiment (Buzznumbers social tracking)

The bold move to make a movie heroing biscuits translated into sales: Arnott’s were once again relevant and back in the shopping basket.

Sales data based on 13-week campaign period YOY:
• Sales decline of -1% was reversed with total Arnott’s +2.3%
• Baseline sales (removing price promotion) for total Arnott’s +8.6% vs category +4.1%

Shapes growth was exponential:
• Baseline sales +33% YOY vs total savoury category +5.4%

Tim Tams also in growth:
• Baseline sales +10% YOY vs total chocolate category 0%

Arnott’s were back as Kiwi favourites and shoppers everywhere knew to “never, ever lose their biscuits’ again.

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New Zealand
August - November 2017
Y&R Engage
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