The chocolate bar was first launched as a trial run in the North East of England in 1981 and rolled out nationwide in 1983. Since then it seems to have gone through a turbulent path of immense popularity and discontinuation. It’s been the subject of corny jokes (“Why did George Michael get chocolate all down his T-shirt? – He was careless with his Wispa”) and of a classic advert featuring Ruth Madoc and Simon Cadell of BBC1’s sitcom Hi-de-Hi! But it was withdrawn in 2003 as part of a move by Cadbury towards expanding their Dairy Milk brand to cover a range of flavours and textures – it was replaced with the Dairy Milk Bubbly bar.
Then something rather strange happened in June 2007. Two Glastonbury festivalgoers invaded the stage during Iggy and the Stooges’ set to unfurl a big banner reading “Bring back the Wispa”. Suddenly the social media were full of talk about Wispas and demanding their resurrection. In response, on 18 August 2007 Cadbury promised to do a limited edition production of the bar in the autumn, and to bring it back permanently if sales were high enough.
The Cadbury website published “15 legendary facts & figures” about Wispa (PDF file, 83 KB; requires suitable reader, eg Adobe Reader), announcing its official permanent return. It turns out that the facts mostly relate to the late 2007 media campaign and resulting sales, and reads far more like a promotion for PR company Borkowski than an info sheet about Wispas.
Here’s a thing, though – if you look at the title of that PDF, it reads “First Draft: Friday 10 August 2007”. Yes, 2007, not 2008 as you would expect. And that’s unlikely to be a typo – 10 August 2007 was indeed a Friday. A clear week before Cadbury announced the temporary return, and a whole year before the permanent comeback.
So is the successful return of the Wispa bar a genuine reflection of its popularity? Or have the buying public all been manipulated in a carefully orchestrated social media campaign? What do you think?