Event Coverage

Thriving Creative Partnerships: Oreo and Digitas on how vulnerability empowered their partnership



On March 23rd, the government encouraged the UK to Stay Home, Save Lives. Lockdown coming into effect threw a lot of advertising campaigns off kilter, as creatives struggled to conceive of a world where going outside and experiences in general were largely on hold. 

Oreo and Digitas were working on a campaign of their own, in the works since January and due to go live in May, when suddenly they knew they had to adapt. Turned around in a matter of days, Digitas shared #StayHomeStayPlayful with Oreo who immediately recognised their brand values of connection, playfulness, and the home. A playbook that would bring families closer when they sought to offset the woes of the news cycle. Both Aislinn and James discuss how the vulnerability the current crisis posed meant their partnership hit new heights, allowing for agility, opennes,  honesty and a great campaign.

A video will be available to watch below from 2pm on Thursday 6th August.

Receive updates about this interview and the ongoing series here


James Whatley.jpg

James Whatley


Aislinn Campbell


James Whatley (Strategy Partner - Digitas) is a senior strategist who has spent the past 14 years working on digitally integrated brand campaigns for a variety of clients. Whether that’s integrating and activating big TV with social for Expedia, planning global digital campaigns for Converse, or generating, pitching, and selling innovation-led ideas for IAG, James is at his best when he’s figuring out where consumers are and how brands should best go about meeting them. At Digitas, James puts all these skills to work as the strategy lead for several key accounts. 

Outside the four walls of the agency, James is known for his weekly newsletter 'Five things on Friday' - where he writes about all of the above and more. Most recently, James helped set up The DICE charter - an industry certification that aims to increase diversity and inclusion at industry conferences and events.

Aislinn Campbell (Senior Brand Manager - Oreo) started her career in marketing 8 years ago, joining PepsiCo after graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Retailing, Marketing and Management. There she worked in the world of fruit juice, leading projects including the launch of Naked Coconut Water, expanding the Naked Smoothie brand to new markets across Western Europe and the strategic repositioning of the Copella brand in the UK.

Since joining Mondelez International 4 years ago, Aislinn has spent most of her time working on (& eating) various forms of Seasonal Chocolate – from Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, to Cadbury Heroes and Roses. Highlights include launching the multi award-winning hunt for the coveted White Creme Egg, and developing a new content-led comms approach for Cadbury Heroes. 

Aislinn joined the Oreo team in March of this year and is excited for the new challenges and opportunities that come with working on the world's number-one cookie brand!

5 key takeaways from the interview:

1. Done is better than perfect
There’s a common misconception that pivoting quickly, and getting work out there in 24 hours rather than 24 days, or even weeks, can be detrimental to the quality of such work. Yet as this series has shown, a great collaborative partnership can dispel this myth. Aislinn and James discussed how whilst it felt like a leap of faith to share embryonic work and to even offer feedback on it, it meant the idea could evolve with the both of them. As Aislinn said, “I’d much rather we evolve it together and be brought in early.”

2. Enter people’s lives in the right way
Whilst some organisations are able to engage with the pandemic on the terms of health advice and care, not every company will be able to. If they did, they might be tarred by the ‘brand purpose’ brush as it looks far more like PR than genuine brand activity. Oreo and Digitas knew this from the outset, and decided their consumers weren’t interested in hearing what Oreo thought of the pandemic. Instead they fell back on their values of family, community and having fun to provide escapism. As James said, the question for them was “How do we ensure we’re entering people’s lives in a light way?”

3. Lockdown can be a catalyst
Whilst we’ve heard a lot about the positive aspects of remote working, rarely have we touched on the positive legacy it might have for creative partnerships. James talked of the intensity the partnership has lived through. A positive one where the bar was set high and they got there together. “You get to that place after a few years of working together and we got there straight away. I’m just really looking forward to what work goes next.” Whilst you might expect physical separation to impact the quality of collaboration, in James and Aislinn’s eyes, it looks to have been a huge test for the pair; one they passed with flying colours and now look to benefit from.

4. “From vulnerability comes immense trust”
James chose this quote from American lecturer and professor Brene Brown when describing how the #StayHomeStayPlayful campaign came about. It can often be a consequence of the showmanship displayed in pitching that vulnerability is a negative that only undermines one side of the partnership. Yet for Aislinn and James, it was crucial to reaching the best work. It meant the relationship was infused with openness and a collaborative spirit, creating not an idea presented inflexibly; but one that could be shaped together.

5. The role marketing has to play in a crisis
“2008 put the importance of investing during a crisis on everyone’s radar. To be present and keep on people’s radars. That coupled with people craving some familiarity.” Aislinn said how easy it was to push pause during this time. Instead, she said that from other financial crises, she’d learned the lesson to instead look for the role marketing can play in such a time. For her, it wasn’t about Oreo going silent until 2021, nor as we’ve previously highlighted was it about them wading into the intense news cycle. Instead it was about them sticking to what they know, and helping carve an opportunity for families to grow closer together and create shareable moments during lockdown. 

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