The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop

Brand Content (SILVER)
Seasonal (GOLD)

Client Credits: Wrigley Canada
Marketing Director (Wrigley Canada): Dan Alvo
Marketing Manager (Wrigley Canada): Julia Mauer
Assistant Brand Manager (Wrigley Canada): Kurtis Wong

Agency Credits: BBDO Toronto
Advertising Agency: BBDO
SVP, Executive Creative Director (BBDO): Todd Mackie
SVP, Executive Creative Director (BBDO): Denise Rossetto
VP, Associate Creative Director (BBDO): Chris Booth
VP, Associate Creative Director (BBDO): Joel Pylypiw
Senior Art Director: Mike Schonberger
Senior Copywriter: Matt Hubbard
Agency Producer (BBDO): Terry Kavanagh
VP, Group Account Director (BBDO): Kristina Hayes
Account Director (BBDO): Saloni Wadehra
Account Executive (BBDO): Zach Kula
Media Agency: MediaCom Canada
Account Management (MediaCom Canada, MediaCom Beyond Advertising): Michael Mills
Account Management (MediaCom Canada, MediaCom Beyond Advertising): Amber McKean
Production (MediaCom Canada, Media Beyond Advertising): Alaine Perrow
PR Agency: Harbinger
Production Company: Creative Soul
Director (Creative Soul): Matt Eastman
DOP (Creative Soul): Michael Banasiak
Producer (Creative Soul): Evan Landry
Executive Producer (Creative Soul): Adam Palmer
Editorial House: Panic And Bob
Editor (Panic And Bob): Steve Puhach
Post-Production Company: Smith
Colourist (Smith): Bill Ferwerda
Online Editor (Smith): Brodie McNeill
Producer (Smith): Jenna Edwards
Audio House: Ricochet
Audio Engineer (Ricochet): Mike Rosnick

Total 1835 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):December 2015 - February 2016
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: December 15, 2015
Base Period as a Benchmark: Dec 15, 2014 – Feb 6, 2015
Geographic Area: GTA focus – coverage and engagement travelled nationally across Canada.
Budget for this effort: $200,000 - $500,000

Why should this case win in the category (ies) you have entered?
This case demonstrates how Skittles was able to create one of Canada’s most successful holiday programs with a fraction of the budget most brands commit to the holiday season – and even technically started it the day after Christmas.
The holiday season is the most competitive, costly and crowded time of year for both brands and consumers in Canada. The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop not only broke through all this seasonal clutter to generate incredible earned media, it helped Skittles sell more at a time of year when the brand usually takes a back seat to more traditional seasonal treats.
A true insight into the holiday season, brought to life in a very unique and creative way generated best-in-class press coverage and social media engagement. The Skittles Pawn Shop - a small, limited-time pop-up shop in downtown Toronto became one of Canada’s hottest trending topics on twitter and helped Skittles drive incremental seasonal sales.

a) Describe the Client’s business, competition and relevant history:

Skittles is one of Canada’s most successful confectionary brands.  It’s also one of Canada’s well…most odd brands.  

Skittles has built its brand in North America by taking risks, being provocative and not settling for anything even remotely traditional within its marketing approach.  The “Taste the Rainbow” tagline has been brought to life in some of the most interesting, diverse and yes flat out weird ways possible. 

This lighthearted, irreverent tone appeals to the core young male target.  It recognizes what it takes to truly grab their attention and drive engagement.  It has helped the brand standout and thrive in Canada with 8 years of consistent growth in an extremely competitive category. 

There was one time of year though where Skittles was overshadowed by many other brands – the Holiday season was both a problem and an opportunity.  

b) Describe the Client’s Business Issues/Opportunities to be addressed by the campaign:

The Holiday season is the second highest volume period for the confectionary category (behind Halloween) but consumer preferences shift.  Consumers tend to trade-up to niche brands (like Toblerone and Lindt) and many traditional brands like Skittles actually experience volume declines during this important selling season.

With candy canes, gumdrops and marshmallow Santa’s filling the shelves of every store, Skittles is the last candy on consumers’ minds.  We set out to change this but we knew we couldn’t compete directly with the massive holiday programs that come to market in traditional retail outlets.

With a very limited budget we wanted to take advantage of the holidays in a uniquely “Skittles” way. 

c) Resulting Business Objectives: Include how these will be measured:
Our business objectives were twofold.

1. Drive incremental seasonal sales. Given the extremely tight window and timeframe for the opportunity we targeted a short, but very important sales boost during a period of traditionally slow sales.

2. Reinforce long-term brand positioning. Yes, Skittles tends to be forgotten during the holiday period but if all we wanted was to sell more, we could have just put it on sale. It was critical that our idea reinforce the brand attributes - unique, irreverent, youthful – that are driving the long-term health and growth of the brand.

In short, our idea needed drive short-term sales while reinforcing the overall brand positioning and contribute to the long-term health of Skittles in Canada.

a) What new learnings/insights did you uncover?

We found a universal holiday insight. While people love the holidays, there is one thing they don’t love – getting that awful gift they’ll never use. Research showed that nearly 75% of Canadians have been disappointed by a bad holiday gift at one point in their lives.

Chances are during the holidays you got some sort of “gift” that you don’t want, that you never wanted, but you are kind of stuck with.  And it always seems…well impolite (and kind of un-Canadian) to just throw these things away.

Based on this insight, we gave Canadians the opportunity to trade those unwanted gifts for something they did want: Skittles! We would create a Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop.

b) What was your Big Idea?

The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop. 

A pop-up location opened on Boxing Day in Toronto where you could exchange your unwanted Holiday gifts for Skittles.  That truly tragic pair of slippers is worth 12 packs. We also built where you could upload your unwanted gifts and we’d appraise them on-line. 

c) How did your Communication strategy evolve?

We knew that our paid dollars alone would achieve limited impact. To generate significant reach, we needed to identify an idea that would garner fame and attention beyond what the dollars could buy.

In terms of paid media, we concentrated primarily on social and digital channels (Facebook and YouTube) because they were the most efficient way to reach our core target.  The vast majority of investment also didn’t start until Boxing Day – after the bulk of holiday activity and competitive spending.  Part of this was of course driven by the idea – the Holiday Pawn Shop had to open after Christmas but it also allowed us to take advantage of a much quieter overall competitive (and news) environment. 

Most importantly we pre-planned intense PR outreach.   We believed our idea was innovative, interesting and had an amazing news “hook.”  Generating earned media was critical to driving broader reach across Canada – ensuring you wouldn’t have to physically experience the Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop in Toronto to hear about it and engage with it.  

d) How did you anticipate the communication would achieve the Business Objectives?

The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop was designed to generate both social engagement and buzz for the brand.  To generate content that was so entertaining and unique and compelling that people would want to share it.  This is a tremendously high bar, but we believed the idea and the executions behind it were truly good enough to warrant this believe. 

We also actively pre-planned for a high degree of earned media.  The time between Christmas in New Years is slower in terms of news cycles and again we believed the idea came with a built in news “hook” that would get the media excited about the story. 

Success wasn’t going to be measured by how many people we were able to drive through the physical location in Toronto.  Success was about how much engagement, news coverage and ultimately seasonal sales we were able to stimulate with the content the Pawn Shop allowed us to create and share.

Section IV — THE WORK
a) How, where and when did you execute it?

To introduce the campaign, we promoted a video where our target interacts most – YouTube and Facebook.  The video let viewers know they could actually trade bad gift ideas for real Skittles, inviting them to submit photos for an online valuation and visit the live location. 

We released our video – a parody of the typical low-budget retail ad, featuring Skittles very own dealmaker, Dale – on December 15th and supported it with an interactive website, print, social posts, and PR.

The website ( allowed our target to engage with the brand online and upload images of the items they wanted to exchange for Skittles. Real time “appraisers” would value each submission and instantly provide a certificate that could be redeemed at the Skittles Pawn Shop. For those unable to make it to the shop, this appraisal certificate gave them $2 off a bag of Skittles, anywhere in Canada.

On Boxing Day, we opened the pawn shop which was supported by print, social posts, and PR. Daily social posts kept followers updated with store hours and generated additional awareness of the shop after opening. To amplify store awareness even further, we partnered with YouTube influencer Lily Singh, who is a huge Skittles fan! Lily amplified the excitement with her own social posts as well as a store visit, driving a major spike in traffic the day she arrived.

For five days, thousands of customers brought in holiday items they didn’t want and traded them for what they did want: Skittles. A grand total of over 52,000 bags of Skittles were exchanged for unwanted items during the campaign. These items were then donated to one of Canada’s largest charities.

c) Media Plan Summary

Despite the limited budget we generated an incredible amount of content and media coverage. 

In terms of evolution, the main challenge was optimizing all this content and engagement – especially given we needed to create as much attention as possible in just 1 week (while the Pawn Shop was open).  A multi-functional team was in constant contact throughout the week to:

  • Optimize content.  Directing spending towards the pieces that were generating the most engagement.
  • Deal with media requests.  Even with our pre-planning the demand for assets for news stories was almost overwhelming. 
  • Create on-going content.  We filmed multiple video segments with both social influencers and typical Skittles fans who pawned unwanted gifts – encouraging and enabling everyone to share their experience across all their (and our) social channels.
  • Community Moderating.  Social engagement was extremely positive (and high) – we needed to respond to and fuel all this engagement in real-time.

a) How did the work impact attitudes and behaviour?

We set quite aggressive targets for consumer engagement metrics and earned media goals and the Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop surpassed all of them:

  • 98.8 million earned media impressions (+394% over target).  Including coverage on Canada’s top 5 TV broadcasters (CTV, CBC, City, CP24, Global).
  • 2,700 shop visits over 5 days (+317% over target)
  • 15,984 website submissions (+85% over target)
  • 51,798 site visits (+20% over target)
  • 4.4 million video views
  • 503K total engagements

The social commentary and interaction was almost unanimously positive with 98% of comments, posts and mentions being favourable. 

And finally, numerous requests from around the world to bring the Skittles Pawn Shop to their city.

b) What Business Results did the work achieve for the client?

  • National Seasonal Skittles sales were +16% for the period of the program.

We drove incremental sales within a historically low period.  The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop delivered short-term, immediate business results while generating awareness, engagement and overwhelmingly positive interaction with the brand.  These results were national – the physical location in Toronto allowed us to create content and news stories that crossed Canada and in many cases the globe.  

c) Other Pertinent Results


d) What was the campaign’s Return on Investment?

Please see the above sections detailing the successful sales and engagement metrics behind the program.

Without releasing privileged information, we can say that the ROI delivered by this specific program was well above all corporate benchmarks and hurdle rates.  This was driven by both the great results but also by the limited budget we used to generate such incredible, positive overall engagement and incremental sales.

Section VI — Proof of Campaign Effectiveness
a) Illustrate the direct cause and effect between the campaign and the results

The nature of the idea lead to content, news coverage and tremendous social engagement that because of the nature of this type of engagement and coverage is clearly all about – and only about - the Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop. 

We measured everything in order to optimize it and all Skittles engagement was clearly and 100% driven by this idea and only this idea. 

There was no other brand or sales activity in-market at the time that could account for the sales increase.  

b) Prove the results were not driven by other factors
Campaign spend vs. history and competition:

There was no other difference in Skittles brand or sales activity VYA. 

The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop was the only difference VYA and it was incredibly effective. 

Pre-existing Brand momentum:



No difference in overall sales incentives VYA – we weren’t “on-sale” more.

Changes in Distribution/Availability:

No change in distribution. 

Unusual Promotional Activity:

No other consumer promotions.  

Any other factors:

No major account shifts or wins.