Mars Comments on Twix Ads Controversy

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.

An ad for "Left Twix"
An ad for “Left Twix” in ACTION COMICS #41 (2015)

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.

An ad for "Right Twix" in ACTION COMICS #41 (2015)
An ad for “Right Twix” in ACTION COMICS #41 (2015)

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.

One of Marvel's past half-page double-spread ads  (Source: SLAY, MONSTROBOT OF THE DEEP blog)
One of Marvel’s past half-page double-spread ads (Source: SLAY, MONSTROBOT OF THE DEEP blog)

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.

***

The images above are the property of their respective owner(s), and are presented for not-for-profit educational purposes only under the fair use doctrine of the copyright laws of the United States of America.

8 thoughts on “Mars Comments on Twix Ads Controversy”

  1. Well, comics from almost 50 years ago are no excuse for poor behavior. Also, the Bright Red is really jarring. I was totally distracted on those pages. Last but not least; I really dislike that douche La chey; I don’t like seeing his face.

    Great work Mr. Beebe.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. But here’s the big question – are you inclined to buy a Twix? 🙂 I’m curious about what impact the controversy might have on Twix sales, and whether Twix sees any sales increase from the DC ads.

      In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that I purchased a Twix for the first time – for research purposes, you understand (I generally go with Tootsie Rolls for my chocolate of choice) – and I thought the candy bar was great. 🙂

        1. “Nick Lachey?” In doing research for this article, I came across a presentation that appears to summarize the Twix marketing strategy of advertising firm BBDO NY, which developed the “Left Twix vs. Right Twix” campaign: https://prezi.com/c8rb6-aoo0tn/twix/

          I was unclear about the presentation’s sources and claims, and was therefore uncomfortable using the document as a source in the article, but it suggests that Twix’s traditional primary consumer was middle-aged, and that the “Left Twix vs. Right Twix” campaign was an effort to reach a younger demographic.

          If this information is correct, then in choosing Nick Lachey as a spokesperson for Twix’s “Left Twix vs. Right Twix” campaign, BBDO New York presumably has marketing data to suggest that Nick Lachey appeals to a younger audience.

          But again, if the presentation is correct and BBDO NY is hoping to reach a younger audience, are DC Comics books the right platform for this strategy, given the “New 52” survey data on DC’s readers?

          I think the Twix half-page ads controversy will be an interesting case study for business school marketing classes in the near future.

      1. I already love Twix. So this add did little for me. Although… hmmm…

        Really, all I could see was red and gold and Lachey (and all I know about Lachey I learned from the early days of reality TV during which Lachey was really rude with his wife on camera). That is all I know about him really. I mean I probably watched a total of ten minutes of his show over a coupla year period and every minute of it was him being an ass. Not a good spokesperson for anything. I suppose I could be wrong but I doubt it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s