When you’re a brand whose built bullions in equity by banking on the simple ritual of dunking a cookie in milk, then it’s only a must that you bring the biggest and baddest dunker of his generation to market your latest message.

Oreo has enlisted habitual backboard breaker Shaquille O’Neal to put a new spin on a timeless classic by launching the “Oreo Dunk Challenge,” a global marketing campaign that reminds consumers how delightful dunking a cookie in milk could be.

Famous faces in songstress Christina Aguilera and soccer star Neymar de Silva Santos Júnior have also been pegged to promote the innovative cross-channel campaign on mobile and social in 50 countries, as well as television advertisements and in-person activations.

“Dunking has been in my DNA for years, but it goes beyond basketball,” said O’Neal. “I’ve always loved dunking my Oreo cookies in milk—it makes me feel like a kid like no other snack or treat, which is why I was excited to join the Oreo Dunk Challenge. Being able to kick off the campaign by doing my first-ever dunk without using hands will always be a great memory for me.”


Mondelēz International, the parent company of Oreo, also announced their partnership with Google ZOO today through Oreo Space Dunk, a mobile game and site that integrates motion-detection technology and geo-location to allow fans to virtually dunk and launch their cookies into “space” and back.

Social is at the core of the campaign, and Google ZOO and #OreoDunkSweepstakes further encourage fans to post their dairy-rattling jams to win a variety of prizes in the coming weeks.

The next-level marketing move complements an overall strategy that already featured a Snapchat lens on February 12. The Oreo Dunk Challenge will also be front and center at the NCAA Final Four Fan Fest in Phoenix next month, as well as TV takeovers with Live With Kelly, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Chew.

From stealing the Super Bowl on social four years ago to emerging in the space of e-commerce with a holiday website that lets consumers buy limited-edition tins of fudge-covered cookies, Oreo is no stranger to digital success. In fact, Mondelēz International’s plans to grow e-commerce revenues to at least $1 billion by 2020.

Kerri McCarthy, Oreo’s senior global brand manager at Mondelēz International, the parent holder of the cookie company, joined [a]listdaily to detail how they’re reinventing a simple, century-long tradition in dunking to drive new engagement and social media conversation across the world.

What is the Oreo Dunk Challenge supposed to accomplish for the brand? Why was it critical for Oreo to dunk itself into the digital space through mobile, social and in-person activations?

The Oreo Dunk Challenge has a very simple mission—to get millions of people dunking Oreo cookies in milk as a way to reconnect with the kid inside, because there’s no more playful snacking moment than dunking an Oreo cookie in milk. Nothing will replace the joy of sitting down and dunking an actual Oreo cookie, but we pushed to bring our signature ritual to life in ways that would continue to surprise and delight fans, from in-person events and sampling to our collaboration with The ZOO at Google. A diverse set of dunks and touch points have allowed us to bring a fresh perspective to something that’s been so core to the brand for nearly 100 years. And with digital being core to how our consumers live, we knew it had to play a major role in these touch points across the campaign.

Kerri McCarthy, Oreo’s senior global brand manager at Mondelēz International.

With the Oreo Space Dunk, why is it critical to enter the mobile market and steer consumers away a bit from TV?

Consumers today engage on multiple screens at once, so we’re less focused on steering people in a particular direction and more about engaging them where they already are—whether that’s high-profile TV, on mobile, in-store or events. Tapping into the mobile market through our collaboration with Google was a way to create a customized, digital dunking experience that brings an offline consumer behavior online in a playful way that could only be Oreo. What’s so interesting about the Oreo Space Dunk in particular is that it’s a global experience that can transcend just one market.

What is Oreo’s strategy in communicating with digital-first consumers? How do you reach them?

We want to reach consumers wherever they are spending their time—whether it’s on a social platform, a messaging app, or an e-commerce site. We always want to show up in ways that are true to the Oreo brand, so we like to be playful and try new things to reach new consumers and deepen our engagement with existing Oreo fans. A key piece to fostering that engagement is creating something that’s personalized and custom, which we’ve achieved through the Oreo Space Dunk in collaboration with Google, by integrating motion detection technology and the user’s location.

What is the integrated social media strategy for #OreoDunkSweepstakes? What platforms do you plan on testing? What can fans expect?

#OreoDunkSweepstakes is the specific promotional hashtag for the United States; the entry specifics and mechanisms for the Oreo Dunk Challenge promotion vary from market to market. Our major platforms across the campaign are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, with unique assets for each. Beyond entering for a chance to win on their local social platforms, fans can expect to see a series of Oreo Dunk challenges through ongoing social content designed to inspire new dunks with Oreo cookies. This content will feature dunks from the Oreo brand as well as a variety of dunks from local influencers and our three global celebrity dunkers.

Why was it imperative to take Oreo’s marketing to a global level this time? What are the different intricacies you’ve encountered compared to a domestic roll-out?

Oreo is a truly global brand, sold in more than 100 countries around the world. For the past few years, we have introduced a global campaign in Q1 as a way to kick-off the year with momentum and continue to build our global ‘Wonderfilled’ creative platform. The key to ensuring a campaign is successful on a global scale is to come up with a creative idea that resonates with consumers across the globe, but also has built-in flex that allow the individual countries to cater to local nuances. Our local marketers will leverage global creative assets, such as the celebrity-studded TV and digital content and the Oreo Space Dunk partnership with Google, and then layer on a country-led activation—like content from local influencers and retailer-specific partnerships—to strengthen resonance with local Oreo fans. We’re proud of how we’ve taken such an iconic ritual that’s been a part of the Oreo brand DNA, and used that as a springboard to engage fans in markets around the world.


How was the activation received with Shaq at Chelsea Market in New York City, the location of the original Nabisco bakery where the first Oreo was made?

The Oreo event at Chelsea Market was the North America launch of the campaign. We knew we wanted to show consumers how fun dunking an Oreo cookie in milk is, and we knew we wanted to do it in an unexpected way. To do so, we used brain-sensing headbands and custom software to track the concentration levels of participants—when their concentration reached a certain threshold they were able to move an Oreo cookie toward a glass of milk without any hands. Fans had a blast at the event, which was held at the birthplace of the Oreo cookie, and some got to go head-to-head with Shaq as an added layer of excitement. We had over 1,000 people do the hands-free Oreo Cookie Dunk throughout just one day, and it was a great way to kick off the campaign by putting a new spin on the Oreo dunk ritual.

What are the insights and data that influence your marketing strategy? Is there a new product or service that you think will influence decisions?

It’s so important for any brand to be tapped in to what is happening in the market. We research extensively to understand consumer motivations, past purchasing behavior, future purchase considerations and media consumption patterns to inform new product development and overall messaging strategy. We also use marketing performance metrics, such as channel ROI and platform-specific KPIs, to optimize and prioritize our production and media investments.

What is on top of your marketing “hot list” this year? Are there any emerging trends that you’re looking at in order to explore and innovate the Oreo brand?

We consistently aim to reach consumers where they are increasingly spending their time and as a result, we’ll continue to invest in digital video as video consumption continues to rise. E-commerce also continues to be a priority for the Oreo brand and as such, we are working with our partners on e-commerce-specific offerings and content partnerships. From a global perspective, we have some markets exploring things such as live video streaming and chat bots, and others who are increasing the use of data-driven audience targeting and testing capabilities to get the right message to the right consumers within the right context. Overall, we are always looking for new, efficient and effective ways to reach consumers and will continue to test and learn as new offerings come onto the market.