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Nestlé urges workaholics to take a break – and how about a Kit Kat? Add to ...

For years, Kit Kat has marketed itself on a simple premise: You should have a break. So what is a candy bar to do when consumers stop taking them?

That’s the challenge Nestlé Canada Inc. faces, and the reason why it is launching its largest advertising campaign ever in Canada, starting Monday.

The campaign follows consumer research that the company conducted with 6,700 people beginning in 2012. That research found what many of us have long known: People are working longer hours, and even on the rare occasions when they step away from their desks, technology has created a work force that is always on.

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It was a good enough insight to prompt Nestlé to spend more money advertising its candy bar in Canada than it has in its 78-year history.

The puzzling thing about this is that the competitive landscape has not changed much for Nestlé: According to the company, Kit Kat is the best-selling candy bar in the country. While the confectionery space is competitive, with multiple brands jockeying for snackers’ pocket change, Nestlé has not seen any signs of rapid growth from its competitors.

In a global climate where marketers’ expenses are squeezed, it is unusual to see a company spend more than it has to simply based on a good idea – as ad agencies fighting for budgets well know.

“Our marketing budgets are tight as well, but our priority is Kit Kat. For us it really is about supporting the brand,” said Jan Fuller, director of marketing for confectionery at Nestlé Canada. “We want to continue to grow.”

Since consumers’ working habits have fundamentally changed, the company decided to launch the new campaign to focus on enabling people to take breaks.

Among the campaign elements will be a mobile application called the Break Assist that will offer “tools” to help workers get away from their desks or from a meeting for a few minutes’ respite.

For example, the application can trigger a fake phone call, arranged by the user either immediately or at a preset time. When users answer the phone, a recorded message on the other end will coach them through things to say to give them an excuse to duck out.

The messages will vary, from semi-plausible, such as neighbours unexpectedly coming to dinner, to outright ridiculous – suggesting the app is intended more for a chuckle than for actual use in situations where one’s job performance is at stake.

“A Russian satellite lands in a backyard, which is always devastating,” said Steve Miller, vice-president and creative director at OneMethod, the lead digital advertising and design agency for Kit Kat in Canada, describing one of the app’s scenarios. “At one point, Japan calls.”

A second Break Assist tool will launch during a subsequent phase of the campaign toward the end of April, and another in late summer.

The campaign will include a TV commercial, but also represents a slightly heavier investment than usual on digital media: about 35 per cent of the spend. That reflects the target of the advertising. While the brand seeks to reach a broad segment of the population, that includes young people whose media habits differ wildly from older consumers – and who give an insight into how advertising will increasingly be seen in the future.

But while the scenarios are for fun, the change to workers’ lives that the brand is attempting to address is serious. And so is the pivot that a brand built on time off needs to undertake.

“Consumers find that if they go for their break, it’s not looked upon as they’re being productive,” Ms. Fuller said. “… There’s a high level of productivity and expectation – you just work. You work a lot.”

Follow on Twitter: @susinsky

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