Donut Doubles: Go inside the jelly-filled viral campaign created in Missouri
It was February. Three Springfield advertising professionals were searching for inspiration for a new campaign. As they talked, they were also observing other customers and the doughnuts they purchased.
“We started exploring an idea based on the reasoning behind which doughnut you pick,” says Dan Stewart, creative director of Springfield advertising firm Deep. “And then, it hit us, ‘What if the person looked similar to the doughnut they chose?’ ”
In that moment, a viral campaign was born.
When the Donut Doubles video and website hit the web in May, the internet community loved the idea. A guy with a dark, scruffy beard mirrored a chocolate-covered long john. A freckled redhead matched her iced donut with red sprinkles. A wrinkled woman with a cigarette on her lip had a crusty apple fritter as her twin.
The campaign was posted on dozens of blogs and will soon be featured in an Italian magazine that focuses on fashion, culture, and new trends. Views have topped 100,000. For the team of Missourians who collaborated on the ads, the reaction was thrilling, if a little unexpected.
“There’s really no way of planning for something to go viral,” Stewart says. “But the power of a great idea usually helps.”
Deep, a Springfield-based advertising agency with 30 employees, created the Donut Doubles campaign. The agency is an affiliate of the Marlin Network, a company with holdings in various firms that provide advertising, consulting, and strategic services to the food industry.
The Donut Doubles campaign was created to attract food executives to the annual Marlin Network breakfast. Each year, the agency holds the breakfast to show appreciation for its clients: Nestlé, Tyson, Lamb Weston, Mission, and others. It also provides contact with potential new customers. The event takes place during the National Restaurant Association Show—a major convention held each May in Chicago.
“This is the voice and the face of our company,” says Stewart, a partner and creative director. “There’s an untethered creative approach on this yearly event that always results in great work. So, it’s a project everyone wants to work on.”
After the initial doughnut shop brainstorming session, the Deep team was excited about creating a campaign starring doughnuts. They sensed a hip energy around the pastries; there was a resurgence of small, independent doughnut shops across the county.
While the creative team at Deep set off to create an interactive website and fine-tune the copy direction, Stewart worked on
the visuals. With a few simple sketches in hand, he called the renowned St. Louis studio Bruton Stroube, which Deep has collaborated with on a number of projects.
The agency and studio began trading ideas on what the Donut Double images and video should look like. They decided to use a parallax, an effect that would give static images a sense of movement, and started working with Strange Donuts in St. Louis to get the doughnuts they envisioned.
They also started searching for local talent to portray the doughnut doppelgangers.
Each layer of detail prompted amusing new ideas to improve the images.
“We thought we had the idea firmly figured out, but you have to remain open to inspiration as it comes,” Stewart says. “When you’re having fun, good work is being produced because you’re looking forward to it, everyone is involved, everyone has skin in the game, and all participants want to execute it at the highest level.”
Then on March 28, the campaign stars—both actors and pastries—came together for a memorable photo shoot in St. Louis.
Pairing each character with the perfect doughnut was an art. A boxer was matched with a stuffed doughnut oozing strawberry filling, which mimicked his bloodied nose. A woman with a bleached Mohawk required a last-minute switch to a frosted cruller that perfectly mirrored the white waves in her hair.
In the following weeks, Deep and Bruton Stroube worked together to refine
the images, create animated titles, and mix the music and sound effects. Deep also published an interactive website where visitors could find their own doughnut match.
In April, the campaign kicked off with a series of
emails to approximately 300 food industry executives.
From that humble beginning, the campaign slowly spread throughout the internet. About a week after the breakfast event, Donut Doubles was
suddenly everywhere on the web. Deep knew it had a hit.
Thousands upon thousands of clicks later, Stewart says Deep is proud of the work. It illustrates how a talented creative team can use the power of a big idea and the internet to get global exposure.
“It’s a lot of fun to see how an idea, from a sketch on a napkin in a doughnut shop, comes to life as a final executed video and website,” he says. “There’s always potential for these things to be accepted and shared. It can take on a life of its own. We just didn’t think it would necessarily be to this degree.”