A risk worth taking.
How Isobar promoted Activia Black yogurt through black Instagram masks
Isobar creative lead Yaroslav Lerman talks about his favorite case of 2020 and explains why 40-year-olds should not be allowed to promote youth products

January 27, 2021

Roman Sudolsky

Yaroslav Lerman
Isobar creative lead
I’ve been to the both sides of the barricades — I worked with Coca-Cola, then with Pepsi. When working with an FMCG brand, it is very important to visit the supermarket, stand near the shelves and watch how consumers interact with the product. This is how visual surprise is born, which then develops into semantics.
Birth of black yogurt
When I came to Isobar, the story of promoting Activia black yogurt had been going on for several months. Nika Varlamova, who initially led the project as a copywriter, did a very good job, but the client did not immediately accept the idea. In the end, we managed to make it so that everyone liked it.

Of course, we were lucky the product itself was so interesting. Activia black yogurt is the first black yogurt on the Ukrainian market. Moreover, it was an initiative of the local Danone Ukraine office, their own R&D. Therefore, it was extremely important for them to implement this case correctly.
People over a certain age should not engage in youth communications
The coolest thing about Activia black yogurt is the attention to youth culture. And the communication itself is also made by us, young people. I have turned 25 recently, Nika Varlamova is my peer, a photographer who took pictures for the project is also under 30.

This is the eternal point of contention with a friend of mine: people over a certain age should not mess with youth communications. It sounds rude, but it brings us to the principle "do not measure yourself, but follow the people for whom you do it." There are often moments in our market when a person is so intoxicated by their reputation and past merits that they try to get on the wave of hype in their 40s. And as a result we get communications like: "Go, rock it, slam it". It looks like bullshit — these people refuse to perceive how the gen Z actually talk.
We took a different approach. We built a rather bold hypothesis, which is that you need some indulgence, forgiveness of night sins after you burn out at a party and you turn into a charcoal. And the same charcoal in the form of black yogurt puts you back on track. Nika Varlamova had an excellent slogan for this idea: "Active night, morning light". Plus the product itself is called "Activia" — it turned out great.
What did we do with this idea next? Made a cool shoot, and used the photos in different types of content. An important part of the project was communication with opinion leaders, who had to show the product and apply a special mask for Instagram. The mask turned out to be technologically cool — at that time, brands made either simple games or masks with the brand name you could put on your cheeks. Our masks changed your face color at the head’s turn.
Blackface or not blackface
We launched, communication was going well — and then suddenly racial unrest begins in the United States. I became very worried that we would be accused of blackface.

BLM (Black Lives Matters) is a movement founded in 2013 against racism, white supremacism and police violence against African Americans. In May 2020, under this slogan, mass protests began after the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. The protests, which involved more than 15 million people, became the largest in US history.
Blackface is a type of theatrical makeup used by American comedians to caricature dark-skinned characters. They smeared the hotel's face, leaving the area around the mouth intact. Blackfaces were popular from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1960s, when the African American Civil Rights Movement began to gain momentum.

However, it all worked out. First, we did not play on blackface, but played on the theme of the night sky. Secondly, I decided to reinsure myself and showed our case to a familiar African-American director from Los Angeles. I asked if he took it as a blackface and if we should worry. He replied that everything was fine, the communication was readable and did not cause rejection. It calmed me down.

As a result, in the spring of 2020, we took silver and bronze at the KIAF with this story.

What is indicative of this case? First, it is about the joint work of strategy and creativity, and secondly, about surprise.
We exceeded the goals of the initial interaction more than 10 times
We were inspired by pictures of Stephen Meisel — I believe it was a shoot for W Magazine with Kate Moss, where she was completely painted black. We found references directly in the book that was once given to me. It's more cool than just pictures from Google.

When we came up with the design of the mask, we were very immersed in the culture of the legendary New York club "Studio 54", in the club culture, but not from the raves, namely in the beautiful night aesthetics. I want people around me to be a little more interested and enthusiastic — that's what our communication is for.
Our achievements
It was a story about coverage and about the initial interactions with the mask. We exceeded the goals of the primary interaction more than 10 times.

Insta-mask, numbers:

photos and videos
Coverage of influencers' publications
In total, the campaign reached 2.5 million people. But for the customer, of course, the most important thing is sales. Sales have also turned out well — the client exceeded the sales plan on SKU (stock keeping unit, commodity positions) by more than 10%. And our SKUs were the cornerstone of all communication, so we can safely say that the campaign worked.

It is important to note that the product "Activia black yogurt" was launched without television support. At that time, the brand was advertised on TV with a different story. Even in the Instagram feed of "Activia" there was only one post from our communication. The client did not want to risk his main block of communication, but at the same time wanted to start effectively with Activia black.
We promoted the Instagram mask through influencers. They were very different — on the one hand, Nastya Karpchuk, common to the young audience, on the other — Petro Yasinsky from the Ruslan Baginskiy team. For Petya it was the first experience of interacting with a Ukrainian brand on a commercial basis. It was cool and enjoyable for all participants in the process. We also worked with Saba Musina — great enthusiasm, well understood by all. So we covered different categories of young people.

Plus, we had a very interesting story about offline. We put up posters with navigation on our mask and with our tagline in places where party posters are usually posted. That is, we placed our "Activia" in order to meet the spirit of the party, where Catacult and Closer put up their posters. We quickly came up with this story, implemented it quickly, and it turned out to be successful.
Real people are better than the ones we invent
Why did this case go viral?

Studying youth communications, you can see that most of them are made for some fictional people. But real people are better than the ones we invent. We listened carefully to the fans of night dance parties and did what fits into their routine.

In fact, there was no focused research with in-depth interviews and everything else. It's just that we are in the same target as the product audience. We listened to what our friends were saying and tried to understand what was still relevant outside of our circle of friends. The more you take from life, the better it will be perceived as a result. Given our surprise, we also tried to guess who these people were willing to listen to — and based on that we formed a pool of influencers.
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