Pirate’s Booty Sails Into CTV And Digital To Engage Co-Viewing Audiences

Pirate’s Booty has long traded on its high level of brand awareness, which it’s been able to achieve despite rarely advertising on TV.

Or doing much paid advertising at all, for that matter, said Mark Chu, director of marketing at Amplify Snack Brands, which was acquired by Hershey in 2018. Later that year, Hershey bought Pirate’s Booty and placed it under the Amplify umbrella.

Before the acquisition, Pirate’s Booty mainly focused on the “slow and steady everyday managing of the business,” Chu said, including product innovation, packaging and distribution growth. But that changed after Hershey added the brand to its snack portfolio.

“The acquisition flipped our thinking in terms of what else we can do to drive growth,” Chu said.

In other words, ahoy advertising.

Now, Pirate’s Booty is tweaking its creative messaging to reach both parents and their kids – rather than just parents – in a co-viewing situation through digital and video channels.

Aye, aye, digital

Because Pirate’s Booty only really got serious about marketing a few years ago, it largely skipped over linear TV as a vehicle for reach.

“I don’t know that there’s ever been a significant investment in linear TV,” Chu said, and there’s still no interest in doing so today.

One reason why is because the brand is keen on reaching kids, and most of the video content that young people consume is in digital or connected environments rather than linear TV or even social media.

As a result, Pirate’s Booty is allocating its booty – aka its ad dollars – to digital and especially CTV.

In 2020, Pirate’s Booty started working with Dentsu to plan and manage media buys. Back then, the brand was “more concentrated on social, online video and some display,” said Natalie Monaldo, planning director at Dentsu X, which is the new name for the media side of Dentsu’s 360i business.

Based on the success that Pirate’s Booty saw with online video, particularly YouTube, it made “total sense” to start investing in CTV, too, she said.

“We tested CTV a little bit in 2021, and [saw] a big year-over-year change with adding in CTV and finessing the finer details of some of our YouTube placements,” Monaldo said.

All digital and online video buys are transacted programmatically, she added. And CTV, which the brand only started testing last year, is now the main focus from a channel perspective.

But because of inventory scarcity, Dentsu has had to tweak its approach to programmatic buying. For connected TV, specifically, Dentsu sets up individual deals with various distributors through private marketplaces, Monaldo said.

Dentsu is also still adjusting to the nuances of measurement on CTV. For example, campaigns need to be live for at least a month before the agency can make midflight optimizations based on initial insights.

But despite measurement challenges, CTV has reach potential that’s on par with linear because advertisers can target at a household level, which can help support Pirate’s Booty in its quest to reach families.

“CTV is a big portion of the co-viewing plan,” Monaldo said. “We’re leaning into more family-centric genres like cooking and game shows to [reach and] appeal to both the parent and the child.”

To keep kids interested, the brand’s also trying out “mobile-rich media with gamified [display] units” to drive engagement, she added.

Sailing to kids

With a new marketing strategy on board, Pirate’s Booty, a childhood staple for many, also saw a chance to directly reach its younger consumers – not just their parents – with different brand messaging.

Since the acquisition by Hershey, the brand’s target audience shifted from exclusively parents to co-viewing households with young children between the ages of two and six. “We bridged the brand [messaging] from ‘Ahoy, parents!’ and ‘Baked not fried’ to dialing up something a little more fun,” Chu said.

Step one to piquing a kid’s interest is avoiding the word “healthy.” Step two is coming up with engaging, unscripted content. The brand’s latest campaign, which started running on YouTube and CTV in May, is an attempt to do both.

Pirate’s Booty worked with the Dentsu creative agency 360i to plan and produce the content for the recent campaign, which consists of recorded, unscripted interviews with young children about why they love the snack.

Rather than creative starring the eponymous pirate, the brand wanted the messaging to be “more about the experience of eating the puffs,” said Brian Eden, executive creative director at 360i.

“We shifted the emphasis onto the snack itself,” he said.

But worry not: The pirate has yet to walk the plank. “We ended up finding a really nice middle ground keeping the pirate in the story,” Eden said. “He still animates the end line, ‘Arr, it’s good.’”

The campaign also steers clear of talking about health benefits, which might appeal to parents but won’t do anything to attract children.

“If the kids aren’t eating it,” Chu said, “it won’t be a repeat purchase.”

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