No Frills drops a ‘banger’ about grocery shopping protocol

Who: No Frills, with John St., SNDWRx and The Vanity.

What: “A Cart Apart,” a new video (described as “half banger, half PSA”) outlining what constitutes proper grocery shopping protocol in the age of COVID.

When & Where: The video went live Thursday (May 7) on YouTube and across No Frills’ social media channels. The song will also stream on both Spotify and iHeartRadio, with No Frills donating $1 to the President’s Choice Children’s Charity (to a maximum of $50,000) for every play.

Why: Well, because some people still aren’t following proper grocery store protocol, which includes everything from appropriate distancing to not over-handling the produce and not hoarding essential items.

There’s a need to reinforce what constitutes best practices for consumers, says Cher Campbell, executive creative director at John St. While people are generally following the rules, many cooped-up Canadians are also treating trips to the grocery store as an outing—which can lead to a relaxed approach, she says. “This is no longer your Sunday entertainment.”

The work is also a deliberate attempt to break with COVID advertising orthodoxy to this point, which seems to have settled somewhere between earnest and maudlin.

How: There’s a serious message here about the importance of adhering to established rules like maintaining distance (“a cart apart”), not hoarding and leaving re-usable bags at home. However, it’s delivered with the irreverence that has become a hallmark of the No Frills brand over the past couple of years.

“Brands should lean into who they are,” says Campbell. “I think a lot of them are leaning away from who they are and trying to be soft and emotional and caring, with plinky-plinky music in the background. You have to be who you are, and if you want to express ‘keep your distance,’ do it in your tone of voice. It’s a lot more effective.”

It was an immediate winner: “I’ve never, ever presented something in my entire career in which I’ve had my client [immediately] go ‘Approved,'” says Campbell. “Not one ‘Move this,’ not ‘Make my logo better.’ This took no time, very little money and 100% approval. I think that’s the power of a strong brand voice.”

Express checkout: The spot went from conception to completion in about two weeks, with John St. and SNDWRx (which has worked on the music for No Frills’ Haulers advertising since its inception) developing the lyrics together, and The Vanity coming up with visuals that fit with the No Frills brand. “We have a good group of people who really understand the brand and it’s shockingly easy to call on them to get it out in record time,” says Campbell.

So could this become the norm when the world returns to normal? “I think it’s a bit of a red herring,” says Campbell. “I think you can turn things around in two weeks when you’ve got a really strong brand voice to begin with. In the absence of that, it’s a lot more difficult.”


Chris Powell