Vachon puts a sweet smile on old-timey faces

Who: Bimbo Canada (Vachon); with Cossette for strategy and creative; Septième for production; Starcom for media.

What: “Baking Joy Since 1923,” a campaign celebrating the snack food brand’s 100th anniversary.

When & Where: The campaign is in market now, running nationally across online, social and out-of-home.

Why: Pretty simple really: It’s a big milestone anniversary for a beloved brand. Vachon dates back to 1923, when Joseph-Arcadea and Rose-Anna Vachon took the bold step of selling their land to purchase a small bakery in Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce. Today, its snacks are a supermarket staple, and Vachon is a unit of Mexican food multinational Grupo Bimbo, which acquired the company in 2015.

How: The campaign is showing how Vachon’s treats can put a smile on anyone’s face, using actual 100-year-old photos from the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).

It’s rare to see anyone smiling in photos from that era, but Vachon placed an image of its signature Jos. Louis treat—with a perfect crescent-shaped bite taken out of it—over the mouths of some of the subjects  to create the illusion of a toothy (or is that “creamy”?) grin.

The anchor video shows 1920s-era photos from a variety of settings in which everyone is unsmiling. “Joy wasn’t trending yet,” says the voiceover over a scratchy old-timey soundtrack and a clicking cinema reel. The spot suggests that all changed with Vachon’s debut in 1923.

“Life was no piece of cake before 1923. It’s obvious in photos from the BAnQ’s archives—people didn’t smile,” said Cossette’s executive creative director, Anne-Claude Chénier. “We like to tell ourselves that everything changed when Vachon cakes came along, so we drew inspiration from this fun observation to remind Quebecers that Vachon has been a source of joy for the last 100 years.”

Why so glum? Actually there are several (entirely logical) reasons why it’s so uncommon to see people smiling in 1920s-era photos, starting with the fact that people couldn’t hold a smile long enough during the exposure times required for a photo. Also early photography was heavily influenced by painting, and was intended to be what Vox describes as a “frozen presentation” of a person rather than simply capturing a moment in time. Finally, dentistry wasn’t really evolved at the time, which mean smiles were less, well, photogenic.

And we quote: “Vachon cakes are a part of Quebec’s baking heritage. Canadian brands that have lasted this long aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. We’re proud to be celebrating Vachon’s 100th anniversary with our consumers from coast to coast.”— Maryna Shcherbyna, senior marketing manager, Bimbo Canada

Chris Powell