Strange Beast’s string cheese ads brim with “winks” to adult humour
The traditional 2D ads, directed by Laura Jayne Hodkin, demonstrates the rise of serial, Adventure Time-style animation in campaigns and kid-friendly ads at large.
- Liz Gorny
- 6 September 2022
Animation series have been infiltrating kid-friendly food campaigns recently. We Are All Cheese Heads, a new work directed by the always-imaginative Laura Jayne Hodkin and made by Strange Beast in partnership with Carmichael Lynch and Skillbard for the American string cheese brand Cheese Heads, finds itself firmly located in this world. Inspired by the likes of Spongebob Squarepants, it intersplices nods to edgier adult humour, the concept of a larger quirky “world” surrounding each ad, and recurring 2D characters.
Besides Laura and Strange Beast’s very own whacky campaign for Pop Tarts, in February TBWA\ London and Blinkink turned to the “adult animation” style seen in Bob’s Burgers and Adventure Time for another cheese-based product, Mini Cheddars. Creating a cast of townsfolk-cum-cheese characters, Blinkink lent into adult animation for its widely appealing tone and familiarity, allowing audiences to latch on to the Mini Cheddars brand quickly.
While the Mini Cheddars campaign established its own brand of intensely colourful scenes and British accents, We Are All Cheese Heads is a little more haptic, utilising squash and stretch animation and slapstick comedy to embody the texture and movement of a string cheese.
The run of ads centres around “the ongoing debate about the best way to eat string Cheese”, a Frigo press release explains. The Cheese Heads brand and campaign reimagines “how tweens and teens think of string cheese and how they eat it” – “biting, chomping, nibbling, peeling, twisting” – creating a cast of string cheese characters situated in their own playful, detailed universe.
“I wanted to make sure the characters were clean and simple – they are strings of cheese after all!” Laura explains. “I didn’t feel like the characters needed to be super detailed, but I wanted to make sure each had their own unique shape, pattern and expression to help their personalities shine. Each tear, peel, bite and twist would guide their movement and performance, which could be accentuated even more in the animation.” Laura lists the new Mickey Mouse (Shorts) as a main influence, for the squash and stretch style utilised. Other inspirations include early 2000s cartoons like Cow and Chicken “because I like the exaggerated feel of traditional hand drawn character animation when animating slapstick or silly sequences,” Laura confirms.
Tonally, the ad sits within the Adventure Time realm, mainly for the sweet spot it finds between “silly” and “colourful”, and engaging adults “with subtle references that young kids might not understand,” says Laura. “In my own work, I enjoy juxtaposing simple design style with adult jokes, and appealing to kids can be a fun challenge.” For Laura, this perfect balance hinges on the toss-up between being “too crude” and “too goofy”. “There’s an in-between which appeals to adults because we like the contrast of bright, colourful characters with crude little in-jokes that a kid might not pick up on, and kids like it because it’s silly and visually engaging without being patronising.”
The campaign, full of worldbuilding and detailed backgrounds created with Kyle Platts, launches in the United States across digital videos, programmatic display, custom media integrations, paid social, influencer partnerships, public relations and more “that resonate with tweens”, says a press release. Fridge, one of the first ads to run, introduces the cast of characters and the home in which they live.
Laura Jayne Hodkin / Strange Beast: We Are All Cheese Heads, Cheese Horse, made in partnership with Carmichael Lynch and Skillbard (Copyright © Frigo Cheese Heads, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.