Webinar Popup Cancel button
November 6, 2023
February 20, 2024

How Surreal Cereal's "Fake" Celebrity Campaign Took the Marketing World by Storm

Mrignayni Pandey

How Surreal Cereal's "Fake" Celebrity Campaign Took the Marketing World by Storm

November 3, 2023
February 20, 2024
Mrignayni Pandey


In an era where the sparkle of traditional advertising methods is dimming, brands are in a relentless quest for inventive strategies to seize the collective imagination of the public. Gone are the days when a simple billboard or a 30-second TV spot could do the trick. Today, it takes something truly audacious to break through the noise and make a lasting impression. 

Enter Surreal Cereal, a UK-based breakfast brand that has masterfully cracked this code. With its daring "Fake Celebrity" campaign, Surreal Cereal didn't just capture eyeballs; it sparked conversations, ignited social media debates, and even made people chuckle over their morning bowls of cereal. 

This article aims to dissect the anatomy of this groundbreaking campaign, explore its ripple effects across the marketing landscape, and distill valuable lessons that brands—big or small—can glean to make their own indelible marks.

Why Surreal’s brand campaign took off

Here we break down why Surreal’s cereal campaign became a hit. 

1. Ingenious use of names

In a world where celebrity endorsements can cost a fortune, Surreal Cereal took a different route. Unable to afford A-list celebrities, the brand turned this limitation into an opportunity. They scoured the streets and social media to find everyday individuals who just happened to share names with famous personalities like Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, and Dwayne Johnson. 

The brilliance of this approach lies in its simplicity and audacity. By featuring these "celebrities"—who were actually a bus driver, a student, and other regular folks—the brand created a buzz that was both cost-effective and incredibly engaging.

Fake celebrity campaign with Dwayne Johnson
Image source: Marketing/beat

2. Social media buzz

The boldness of Surreal’s ad campaign didn't just turn heads; it set social media ablaze. The campaign's cheeky tone and humorous approach resonated with the online community, leading to viral status in a matter of days. In just four days, Surreal's 'celebs' video commercial amassed over 4,130 reactions, outperforming even big-budget brands. The campaign became a hot topic of discussion, inspiring memes, shares, and even debates about the ethics and creativity of the approach.

TikTok campaign
Image source: TikTok

Read more: 5 Strategies for managing your reputation on social media

3. Legal creativity

When the campaign started to attract legal scrutiny, Surreal Cereal responded in the most on-brand way possible: with humor. Instead of pulling the campaign, they released a series of posts. These posts were void of any potentially controversial messages but maintained the campaign's original cheeky tone. This move not only diffused tension but also added another layer of engagement to the campaign.

Image source: Reddit

4. Consumer engagement

While the campaign did create some confusion among consumers, it was overwhelmingly successful in its primary objective: raising brand awareness. Despite the initial misunderstandings, the majority of consumers remained open to trying or buying Surreal Cereal. The campaign's audacity and humor were enough to pique interest and keep the brand at the top of consumers' minds, proving that sometimes, a little controversy can go a long way in marketing.

5. Alignment with the brand statement

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the campaign was its seamless alignment with Surreal's brand statement: "The world is serious enough. Why does breakfast have to be?" This sentiment was echoed by 68% of respondents in a consumer survey, affirming that the campaign was not just a marketing gimmick but a true reflection of the brand's ethos. By staying true to its core values, Surreal Cereal managed to create a campaign that was not only memorable but also authentic.

Branding lessons from Surreal’s cereal ads

1. Embrace the unconventional

In a saturated market where consumers are bombarded with advertisements at every turn, standing out is crucial. Surreal Cereal teaches us that sometimes the most unconventional ideas can yield the most memorable campaigns. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo or take calculated risks. The key is to be daring yet thoughtful, ensuring that your unconventional approach aligns with your brand's core values.

2. Leverage names and identity

Names carry weight, and Surreal Cereal leveraged this to great effect. If your brand can't afford celebrity endorsements, consider alternative ways to use names or identities that resonate with your target audience. This could mean featuring local heroes, community leaders, or even your own customers in your campaigns. However, it's crucial to tread carefully and ensure that your approach is both legal and ethical to avoid any potential backlash.

3. Utilize customer testimonials

One of the most powerful forms of advertising is word-of-mouth, and Surreal Cereal's campaign indirectly capitalized on this. While they used "fake celebrities," the testimonials were real, adding a layer of authenticity. Your brand can benefit from showcasing real customer testimonials and sharing their stories and experiences with your product or service. This not only builds trust but also fosters a sense of community around your brand.

4. Create a buzz with humor

Humor is a universal language that can make your brand more relatable and engaging. Surreal Cereal advertisement was filled with cheeky humor, which contributed to its viral success. A well-placed joke or a humorous twist can make your campaign more shareable, increasing its reach and impact. However, it's essential to strike the right balance to ensure the humor aligns with your brand and doesn't alienate your audience.

Read more: Brand community: what is it and how to build one?

5. Align with brand values

Perhaps the most important lesson is the need for alignment between your campaign and your brand's core values and statements. Surreal Cereal's campaign was a perfect embodiment of its brand statement, making it not just a marketing stunt but a genuine expression of what the brand stands for. Before launching any campaign, take the time to ensure it resonates with your brand's ethos, as this will make it more impactful and memorable.

Build your own successful brand campaigns

A brand management platform can simplify your creativity workflow and boost productivity. Here’s how:

Workflow automation: Run campaigns with flexible workflows featuring auto-complete capabilities. Assign tasks, track changes, manage deadlines, and more from one screen.

Digital asset management: Store and retrieve your digital assets from one place. Use auto tags and filters to narrow your search to find the asset you need. Custom metadata makes it easy to make search more seamless so you can search the way you think.

Label management: Manage product labels, build checklist-oriented tasks, run automated compliance checks, and go to market faster.

Proofing and approval: Simplify feedback with markup tools, spell check, font finder, and more. Leave actionable feedback with annotations, stay organized with version control,  and remain in the loop with notifications.

Examples of other successful brands

Here are some examples that showcase the diverse ways in which brands can capture public attention and create lasting impressions. Whether it's through humor, social commentary, or challenging norms, the key is to be authentic and resonate with your target audience.

1. Old Spice: "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like"

Old Spice's campaign featuring "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" became nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. The campaign was a masterstroke in rebranding, transforming Old Spice from a dated men's grooming brand into a modern, edgy choice. The ads were humorous, quirky, and highly memorable, leading to a surge in sales and making Old Spice a household name for a new generation.

Old Spice campaign
Image source: LinkedIn

2. Dove: "Real Beauty"

Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign was groundbreaking in its approach to challenging societal beauty norms. Instead of featuring the typical models seen in beauty ads, Dove showcased women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. The campaign resonated deeply with consumers, sparking conversations about body positivity and self-acceptance. It not only boosted Dove's brand image but also had a lasting impact on advertising in the beauty industry.

Dove's 'real beauty' campaign
Image source: LinkedIn

3. Nike: "Just Do It" featuring Colin Kaepernick

Nike took a bold stance with its "Just Do It" campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback known for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. The campaign was polarizing but incredibly effective, sparking nationwide conversations about social justice and the role of brands in activism. Despite initial backlash, the campaign led to increased sales and solidified Nike's reputation as a brand willing to take a stand.

Nike's iconic 'Just Do It' campaign
Image source: Vecteezy

4. Budweiser: "Wassup"

Budweiser's "Wassup" campaign became iconic for its simplicity and humor. The ad featured a group of friends greeting each other with the exaggerated phrase "Wassup," capturing the laid-back, communal spirit associated with the brand. The campaign was a viral success, leading to parodies, memes, and even cultural references in movies and TV shows. It demonstrated the power of humor and relatability in creating a memorable and enduring campaign.

Budweiser's Wassup campaign
Image source: Shots.net

Wrapping up

Surreal Cereal's "Fake Celebrity" campaign serves as a brilliant example of how creativity and audacity can turn a simple idea into a marketing sensation. It proves that you don't need a big budget or famous endorsers to make a lasting impact. The key is to be bold, be different, and most importantly, be surreal.

Download our free Ebook
Thank you!
Form submitted successfully
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Manage and scale your creative operations with Artwork Flow.
Try for free