Oreos Hits With One Brand Video, Misses With Movie Tie-In Piece

Today in “brand tie-ins I don’t understand, because I’m old and set in my ways and believe that everything was better when I was 19, except the Yankees and ease of non-library information retrieval”: the new Oreos commercial that started airing earlier this week. Did anybody catch this? A kid on his bicycle happens upon a Transformers pileup on a rural road. Warily, he approaches the felled beast (are Transformers beasts, technically speaking? I was more a Q*bert kind of kid) and hands him/her/it an Oreo. Duly yummified, the Transformer gets off the turf, says, “Thanks, kid” (Transformers can talk?) and sprints off in the opposite direction, either back into battle or to vote before the polls close in the dual-purpose-robot primary. 

What’s the innocent, delicious cookie of my youth, young adulthood and early middle age doing associating itself with a clunky summer blockbuster? Have Oreos fallen off the nutrio-cultural radar? Or are the Nabisco marketing folks mandated to spend a certain amount of cash every year, despite Oreo’s status as the LeBron James/Meryl Streep of mass-market treats? Anyway, I don’t see the need for this kind of unimaginative tie-in, because I love Oreos and so does everybody else except fascists. The end.

What I do like is the other piece of brand content Oreo unveiled this week, the whimsically quirkily quixotically twee “Mel’s Mini Mini Mart.” It tells the tale of the eponymous store, which sells nothing except Oreo Minis. Hello, precious! Basically, it’s a Wes Anderson film in brand-video form. It’s a ditty.

Ah, but at 111 seconds in length it doesn’t grate the way most twee-core entertainments tend to do. Which is a minor miracle: A list of the clip’s creative components reads equally like unabashed hipster bait and a checklist for admission to the artistic pretention hall of fame.

There is a teensy quaint building that sits alone on a flat highway. There is a framed photo of a stately cat. There are little girls with little curls. There is pentameter-challenged poetry (“Not a soul ever stopped in for donuts or coffee/Or newspapers or batteries or bananas or toffee/Or barbecued jerky or cheese shaped like strings/Good thing, because Mel’s Mart sold none of those things”). Taken together, such details usually instill less a desire to purchase than to punish.

But in this instance it doesn’t matter, and I think that’s due to the gentleness of tone. Brand videos bluster, plead, brag; they sell with great effort and with naked intentions. “Mel’s Mini Mini Mart,” on the other hand, just goes about its happy little business. The folksy narration and plaintive acoustic guitar soundtrack lend it a grandpa-on-the-porch feel. It evokes… something. A simpler time, maybe, in which the alluring smell of freshly baked wee bitty cookies wafted out of every kitchen? If I had to blurb this thing, I’d label it “the feel-good brand video of the year!” and do so without the faintest trace of sarcasm.

Besides, I don’t know how else Nabisco might’ve gone about distinguishing a borderline redundant product. Best I can tell, the single differentiating factor of Oreo Minis is that several of them can be stuffed into one’s maw simultaneously. Beyond an exhibition in which fraternity refugees compete to see who can cram the most Minis into their mouth - which I’d totally watch - I don’t know what there is to sell beyond the cuteness. Oooh, look at the tiny cookies! How adorable! I bet it’d be delightful to eat them while playing obscure Kinks b-sides on the phonograph!

I have no interest in Oreo Minis or any other brand extension that doesn’t involve DoubleStuf-ing copious volumes of Stuf on the spatial canvas between two regulation-size Oreo choco-discs. That said, “Mel’s Mini Mini Mart” manages to create a distinct brand identity for a product that’s nothing more than a shrink-ray’d version of an existing product. That’s some clever branding, people.

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