Mars’ Andrew Clarke on the Genius Behind Skittles’ Spot and Promoting a Culture of Change

Newly named president places bets on 'agile long termism'

Headshot of Lisa Granatstein

Mars global CMO and chief customer officer Andrew Clarke stopped by Adweek’s Cannes HQ at the JW Marriott for another installment of our Terrace Talk series in collaboration with Mars.

Clarke had much to share with me, following his recent promotion as the newly minted global president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery, which produces some of the best-known candy brands including Skittles, Snickers and M&Ms. He will take the helm in September. Clarke does so as marketing continues to undergo digital transformation. Here, Clarke discusses his new role, the award-winning Skittles Super Bowl, “Exclusive the Rainbow” (Agency partner DDB won a gold in the Social Lions category) as well the role of brand purpose and targeting the right audience with the right message.

Adweek: Tell us what you can about your promotion.
Andrew Clarke: I’m delighted to say that starting Sept. 1 I will be the president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery. I’ll be moving out to Chicago and am so delighted to make that move. I’ll still be within Mars, of course. It’s a very exciting iconic business and I’m looking forward to helping that business move to the next level.

How do you go about creating a culture of change at Mars?
Because culture changes, and it takes time to change, I would [say it’s about] agile long-termism, which is quite a nice phrase right? We need to become much more agile, much closer to the consumer, much quicker at innovating, much quicker at testing and learning, using the beauty of being a global business but having a very decentralized model so we can do things at speed in a market and innovate close to the consumers and the customers. The Mars business is, I think most of you know, it’s still a private business—one of the world’s largest private business. So, we can place bets for the long run. We’ve got to get that balance right of doing things for the long run. And if we get that right then the magic happens.

Sean T. Smith

Speaking of magic, let’s talk a little bit about the Skittles Super Bowl spot that only one viewer saw.
The whole idea was how do we create a Super Bowl experience through earned media effectively. It’s a very different approach to what we’ve done historically at Mars. We’ve tended to do big budget blockbusters for the Super Bowl. We did that as well, we did that with M&Ms as well, and it was Snickers before that, but we thought we would take a different approach this year with Skittles, so we created a very different sort of concept where only one person has actually seen the ad, which is completely counter to the whole idea of many eyeballs on Super Bowl. I can honestly say I haven’t seen it before you ask if I have seen it.

Has the Cannes jury seen it?
The jury has not seen it, because that’s not really the point. The point is the whole campaign, the lead up, the creative that we made with David Schwimmer.

What’s an example of creating global branding and while at the same time localizing the work for different audiences, different countries?
What’s the right balance between global and local? I think we’ve got it about right. The beauty of this is if we can get a fantastic global platform based on a universal human truth, [like with] last year’s ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ from Snickers; a brand that’s been around for 70 to 80 years, getting to that universal truth, which we can then create some fantastic above the line with and probably travels across multiple markets.

Let’s talk about brand purpose. Why is it so hot right now?
If you look at some data on YouTube and Unruly and look at the data points, if you look at all the corporate branding material on YouTube, those with a purpose get 32 percent more viewability. For us, this gives us a real opportunity to have a different sort of conversation with the customer. And it gives us the opportunity to create some platforms that we’ve never created before like Pedigree “Feed the Good.”

Can you explain more?
We were really struggling with [pet care brand] Pedigree. I’ve been in the business for 18 years, it’s a brand I’ve known and loved and am very close to, and yet we were struggling to really differentiate ourselves from competition, from price competition and really stand out. [We launched] “Feed the Good” platform. Many of you are dog lovers. If we can make the dog’s life better through nutrition and care, then that makes our lives better. It’s a very, very powerful human insight, which has really helped us to innovate around that brand. Big organizations have a responsibility in today’s world to do the right thing.

Adweek’s mission is to help our audience do their jobs better. What advice would you give the audience to help you do your job better and their job better?
If I woke up tomorrow and could make a problem go away, I think it would be gender diversity. I think we’re talking a lot about it as an industry, we’re making positive strides at Mars, but it would be wonderful if we could all lean in together and drive that to the next level and we just weren’t having the conversation in a year’s time.

Sean T. Smith

@lgranatstein Lisa Granatstein is the editor, svp, programming at Adweek.