You Need The Hippo

In January, Upstream Advertising,'s marketing and advertising division, approached their above-the-line agency, human.kind, as well as social media and experiential activations agency, NATIVE, to create a campaign that focused on bringing the character behind the product offering to life.


“The challenge was to take the Hippo to the next level - take him from the billboard to the breakfast table,” says Rick Rupping, brand manager at Upstream Advertising.


Between the two agencies, the first step was to develop an exhaustive character profile for Hippo which served as the platform from which they could build the sprawling, multifaceted 'You Need the Hippo' campaign.


Once they’d answered questions ranging from 'What was Hippo’s childhood like?' to 'What drives him?' and even 'What does he drive?' it was time to introduce Hippo to the public.


“We decided that if we wanted to showcase Hippo’s vibrant personality, what better way to do it than with a slick music video, allowing Hippo to, as he would put it, ‘combine his love of getting down with his love of getting quotes’,” says Matthew Cooper, creative director at human.kind.


“The formula was simple. Change the lyrics of a catchy song to reflect the product offering and use the abstract environment through a music video to showcase Hippo’s capacity for showmanship. After testing the water with a couple of songs, we eventually settled on 'We Built this City' by Starship – and the 'You Need the Hippo' song shifted into high gear! From then on we let our imaginations run wild as you’ll see in the video which parodies 80s pop culture and glam-rock. In it you’ll see shutter-shades, neon tubing, nods to Bowie, AC/DC and even TRON! The result is as entertaining as it is staggeringly infectious,” says Cooper.


Masters & Savant Worldwide were brought on to produce and animate 'You Need the Hippo'.


According to Roger Smythe, managing director of Masters & Savant Worldwide: “When human.kind approached us to be involved with this commercial, we were thrilled as we were able to take ‘Hippo’ and his friends into new places and spaces. As far as the artwork goes, we deliberately paid homage to the 80s with our choice of colour palette and ensured we maintained the glossy look synonymous with the revitalised Hippo brand."


The Hippo team didn’t stop at a mind-blowing TV commercial. The campaign extends to radio, outdoor and print with each element featuring equal measures of the revved-up attitude so prevalent in the video. The campaign was taken to the next level through social media and experiential activations - literally bringing Hippo to life!


According to Julie Webb, NATIVE’s creative lead on the account, “We created a Facebook page for Hippo which updates regularly with topical content, product content and even behind the scenes peaks into the making of the music video and Hippo bloopers.”


NATIVE also created a Facebook app, Hippo’s 'Need-O-Meter', which aggregates your Facebook friends by scanning their recent status updates.


“He identifies which of your friends are ‘needy’, and scans for friends who need to be congratulated, given a "Hippo high four" and even potential ‘hippo –condriacs’," says Webb. “It’s all about listening to what people are saying out there.”


Hippo transcends the digital space and makes appearances in the real world too by surprising unsuspecting fans with Kind Acts of Randomness.


“For these experiential activations we have created a Hippo costume that looks identical to the TV character. The suit features animatronics and acts as a larger than life puppet in the real world. Once we’ve identified people who need the Hippo - those who have complained or said something that indicated that they needed cheering up - we arrange for Hippo to appear in their life, whether it's at work, at home, at a restaurant - with a gift. We will be operating on the element of surprise,” says Webb.


The content of these Hippo visits will be shared with fans on Facebook and Twitter via YouTube.


“We are thrilled with the outcome of our new campaign and have already noticed a spike in leads and sales. The ‘You Need the Hippo’ song is now firmly stuck in consumers heads and it’s not going anywhere for a good, long while,” concludes Rupping.


For further information please contact Deon Kruger, managing director, on 011 447 1211 or visit:

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