Raccoons steal the show in Coffee-mate ads

The best comedy tends to be rooted in realism, the idea that the events playing out on screen could theoretically happen to the viewer. For Canadians, the raccoon home invasion depicted in a new TV and online campaign for Nestlé Canada’s coffee creamer product Coffee-mate is such a scenario.

The raccoon invasion is one of two particularly unpleasant early-morning scenarios featured in the “Mornings need Coffee-mate” campaign from McCann Canada.

“House of raccoons” shows a husband and wife—played by real life couple Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus, who have been dubbed “Canada’s comedy power couple”— looking on in bemusement as six “trash pandas” take over their kitchen. They clamber about the refrigerator, lick the dirty dishes in the dishwater, frolic in the sink, even climb into a pot on the stove.

A second spot, “Sinkhole,” depicts a less common occurrence (though one not entirely foreign to Canada), with a couple calmly assessing a giant hole that has opened up in the middle of their kitchen overnight. The wife casually notes that the family cat is down there, with husband responds in the affirmative before drolly observing that it also has the car keys.

“There’s no cup of coffee that can save this morning,” says the voiceover. “But a rich and creamy cup of coffee with Coffee Mate might.”

“We all associate a great morning with a great cup of coffee,” said McCann Canada’s chief creative officer Josh Stein. “This was just a fun way to exaggerate what a difficult morning might look like, and [how] a little bit of Coffee-mate into your coffee just might help take the edge off those mornings a little bit.”

Stein praised director James Howarth for his ability to coax a low-key performance from both sets of actors that was intrinsic to the feel of the spots—which he characterized as “subtle, just a regular Wednesday morning.

“The director being able to get subtle performances out of the actors is important to this,” said Stein. “A look, a comment, the way a coffee is sipped—those all matter.”

Production company Circle Productions didn’t use any CGI raccoons for the spot, with Stein joking that it instead used a “raccoon wrangler, or just someone who happened pick up some raccoons on their way to the shoot.” The choice of director was also appropriate, as Howarth had also “directed” one of the cuddly critters in a 2008 spot for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Canadians in other parts of the country tend to bristle whenever they’re presented with a Toronto-centric view of the world, and while raccoons are found across the country, the spot will no doubt evoke some feelings of familiarity—and perhaps even unease—among residents of “the raccoon capital of the world.”

There are said to be more than 100,000 raccoons living within Toronto’s borders, and the battle for living space between the city’s residents and its raccoon population has even garnered international attention.

This ongoing turf war has only grown more intense during the pandemic, with Toronto reporting a 62% increase in the number of people being bitten or scratched by raccoons between January 2020 and February 2021. “This may be because residents are home more than usual or spending more time exercising outside in their neighbourhoods,” said the city in a recent notice to residents.

The new awareness campaign for Coffee-mate arrives just a few weeks after Nestlé’s European rival, Danone, launched a campaign for its International Delight product called “Live life to the flavourest.” If there is indeed a potential coffee creamer war brewing, it’s important to remember that raccoons not only have numbers, they’re also sneaky clever.

Chris Powell