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Purpose, Strategy & Culture

The Story Behind Our Big-Game Ad Campaign, and the “Big Change” to Reese’s

As the most-watched program in America, the big game offers one of the greatest opportunities of the year to reach the most consumers at once, and Hershey is going all in with its latest Reese’s ad.
Ryan Riess
Vice President, Brand Strategy and Creative Development

Key Takeaways:

    • Reese’s is back in the big game with a new commercial.
    • It’s the first time since 2020, a second time ever, that the company will participate in the biggest advertising event of the year.
    • Game day offers a unique opportunity to reach more than 100 million people as they cheer on their favorite team, watch the year’s most exciting commercials and groove to the half-time show.

February 6, 2024

When we have an exciting innovation, we want the world to know—and the faster, the better. That’s what drove our latest Reese’s ad campaign, produced by Erich & Kallman, leading up to the big game on February 11.

“Did you hear?” demands the voice of Will Arnett in each of the ads. “We’re making a big change to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

When the characters hear the news, their reactions are over-the-top. Think: pleading emotional meltdowns, table tossing, beating-head-against-wall extreme, and yet, also so relatable. Wouldn’t you cycle through all the stages of grief upon learning that a product you adore—like one of the most beloved candies in America—may be changing?

But what if you then learned that change was for the better? That Hershey is actually adding a layer of creamy caramel to the Reese’s you love to make Reese’s Caramel Big Cup, and classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are still available?

Celebration! Everybody dance!

The strategy

Being a part of this advertising journey was such a delight. It calls to mind the pain of having something taken away that you always thought would be there, only to realize that the product is still available—and then some. The ad that will air on Feb. 11 features seven characters—six humans and a dog—who each experience their own personalized emotional roller coaster. It’s chaotic, funny and turbulent, all at once. It’s something you could watch again and again to understand the depths of the pain and the elation that each character is feeling.

And, at its heart, it’s an ad about fandom. People’s feelings about Reese’s are akin to how people feel about their favorite teams. If the logo changes, the colors switch and the stadium moves, lives are disrupted. Chaos ensues.

The decision to air the ad during the football event of the year was an important one. In this streaming era, where viewers watch their favorite programs on various channels and platforms and according to their schedules, it’s hard to find moments of togetherness. Football’s favorite Sunday is practically an American holiday and a cherished cultural event. People tune in to the most-watched show of the year for their own reasons, whether it’s the game, the commercials, the half-time show or all of the above. Regardless of their motivations, they’ll all have highlights to talk about on Monday. We want Reese’s Caramel Big Cup to be a part of that Monday conversation, and we’re making sure that retail shelves are stocked and ready for all the consumers who can’t wait to try this new flavor combination.

The story arc we’ve built for the ad isn’t just limited to the 30-second Feb. 11 time slot. We created mysterious teasers (like this one and this one) that have been playing for a couple of weeks, warning viewers that change is afoot but stopping short of the big reveal. We’ve also enlisted influencers, like Jason Kelce, to share their reaction of sheer terror at the thought of a world without their beloved Reese’s. We have some other tricks up our sleeve with similarly themed ads to air in the future.

The why

You don’t take just any product to the big game. It's been four years since we created our only other game day ad (in 2020, we advertised Reese’s Take 5), and it’s an enormous undertaking for us. But as we thought about the business strategy of how we get the most trial on a product that we feel is a great innovation, the big game became a very relevant tactic.

While working on this campaign, I kept thinking about the thousands of people who have made Reese’s Caramel Big Cup a reality, including teams in research and development, innovation, supply chain, sales and retail. They’ve done a remarkable job. Now, it’s up to the rest of us to ensure that consumers know just how delicious this latest innovation is so they don’t miss an opportunity to fall in love with that orange wrapper again.