The placement of half-page, double-spread Twix ads in comic books published by DC Comics has sparked a controversy within the comics community. The ads feature entertainer Nick Lachey promoting the Twix candy bar as part of the candy’s “Left Twix vs. Right Twix” promotional campaign, which humorously urges consumers to choose a preference between the identical left and right Twix candy bars that are packaged together. The site Bleeding Cool broke the story about the ads in late May and – even before the ads debuted in this month’s comics – multiple comics news sites and blogs reported or expressed dissatisfaction with the half-page ads; as the site Comic Book Resources reported, “News of the ads quickly drew a response on social media, both from fans and professionals unhappy with the format as well as observers musing on the inherent absurdity of a candy ad featuring a former 98 Degrees member sharing space with DC superheroes.”
Twix candy bars are made by the food company Mars, Incorporated. Nothing But Comics wanted to get Mars’ perspective on the half-page ad controversy, so we asked the company to comment on both the demographic groups it hoped to reach through its advertising and the controversy over the ads.
We asked Mars what demographic groups it hoped to reach through its advertising and received the following response via email from a Mars Chocolate North America Corporate Affairs Representative: “Mars Chocolate advertises in select publications that reach our target core consumer, adults 18 – 49. As a responsible marketer, we focus all our outreach on audiences 13+ and avoid publications that would appeal to younger children.”
Given Mars’ goal of reaching its target core consumer (that is, adults aged 18 to 49) and the desire to focus its advertising on audiences aged 13 and above, DC Comics may be an ideal publisher for its Twix ads. As reported by the site ICv2, a 2011 survey of initial readers of DC’s “New 52” titles found that under 2% of the respondents were under 18 and that a large percentage of the respondents were in the age range of Mars’ target core consumer.
Nothing But Comics was unable to locate more recent demographics data on DC’s readers, but Mars’ decision to advertise with DC – presumably based on more current marketing data – suggests that the age demographics of DC’s readers may not have changed much since 2011.
In response to our question about whether Mars was aware of the controversy the half-page ads are causing in the comics community, the representative replied: “Obviously ½ page spreads are not new to the comic book industry, but we worked extremely close with DC Comics’ co-publishers, who in turn engaged DC’s editorial teams to ensure our TWIX advertisement received the most appropriate placement.”
Mars’ response indicates that the company is aware that half-page double-spread ads have been used before in comics. For example, Marvel Comics used such ads in its comics in 1971, although as some sites note, half-page ads were unpopular with comics fans and disappeared from comics until the recent Twix ads.
Mars’ response also suggests that DC’s co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee were very involved in the ad placement process, working “extremely close” with Mars and engaging DC’s editorial teams to place the ads.
We asked for a response to the specific criticism from some fans that the half-page ads affect the narrative flow of a comic’s storyline (for example, by distracting readers from the story or limiting the page layouts that artists can use) and the representative replied: “We always want our advertising to be memorable, but in a positive way, which is why we worked extremely close with DC Comics’ co-publishers, who in turn engaged DC’s editorial teams to ensure our TWIX advertisement received the most appropriate placement.”
Although the comics community may continue to debate the narrative impact of the half-page ads and their effectiveness at convincing comics readers to purchase Twix candy bars, Mars’ comments provide a better understanding of the company’s goals for the ads and the level of Mars’ engagement with DC Comics in placing the ads.
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