It's no exaggeration to say Marcel Worldwide's Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables campaign was an instant hit – garnering widespread press coverage, and roundly praised for its stance against wasted food. It reached 13 million people in its home country of France, and helped boost Intermarché's store traffic by 24%. The images of charmingly disfigured and deformed carrots, aubergines and apples also helped top up the company's sales of fruit and veg by 10%. Marcel Worldwide were given a simple brief to work with – to help Intermarché do something around the European year against food waste.
“Intermarché is part of the problem,” says Creative Director Gaetan du Peloux. “So we couldn't come back with an idea that looked like 'greenwashing'. We needed to find something honest, doable and efficient. Not a 'make-up' idea.”
The agency spent “days and nights” refining the right art direction and copywriting, opting for direct language and simple imagery to get the message across. Clever copywriting turned Frankenstein fruit into the stars of the show, with The Failed Lemon, A Grotesque Apple, and all their equally unusual looking companions, cast as the lead characters in the campaign.
“This was our choice: simple, beautiful, eye-catching,” adds du Peloux. “Direct copywriting with no artificial art direction to keep the purity of the idea, and keep it strong.”
Finding the right fruits and veg to take this role was essential, and Marcel Worldwide hunted down the “most beautiful ugly” and “expressive” examples – including a two-pronged carrot, a knobbly potato, and a conjoined apple.
All of these less conventionally appealing produce are usually thrown away by growers, but Intermarché instead bought them and sold them to customers with a 30% discount – an idea that proved so popular the fruit and veg sold out fast.
“We were in the supermarkets during the first days of the launch, and managers said it was the first time for 20 years that they got 'praise' messages in the suggestion box at the entrance of the shop,” says du Peloux.
“We have talked with hundreds of customers, and smelled and touched the real impact of an idea. It has changed the way we do our job, it has been a lesson. Now we use the reality filter to select ideas from our creative teams. Your idea is great but will it work in real life?”
As well as its influence on its own creative team, the campaign has been so successful it's spurred other retailers to launch similar initiatives, and even inspired startups dedicated to selling unconventional produce. And while it seems like the idea behind the campaign must have felt like a clear winner, du Peloux is quick to assure that its success needed much more than that initial lightbulb moment.
“There are so many ideas that feel like instant hits,” he says. “That's the truth. The world is full of fantastic ideas. But to transform a great idea in your head into a Black Pencil in your hand, there is a long, long, long road. And most of those ideas get lost on it.”
“When you have a groundbreaking idea, yes, you can be happy for ten minutes, but the best advice we can give is that you have only achieved 10% of the journey. This is the beginning of your highway to hell, so be prepared and stay focused on the idea.”
Inglorious Fruit & Vegetables is a masterclass in using creative work to effect positive change, and while du Peloux accepts that the ad and creative industry isn't a philanthropic world, he firmly believes that it has a greater role to play.
“People don't believe that governments have the power anymore to change the world,” he says. “They think brands have this role. So we truly believe that we are at the right place to push our clients to achieve great things for our common future. Our agency motto is “make things that change things” for many years, and it has never been so true.”