Oatly launches cute but weird puppet campaign The New Norm&al Show

The miniseries of five video shorts was created by the ‘Oatly Department of Mind Control’, Nexus and Isle of Dogs puppet maker Andy Gent

Oatly has launched a cute but pretty weird new campaign, The New Norm&al Show, starring carton-based puppet pals Norm and Al.

In the brand’s biggest ever UK campaign, the miniseries comprises five short episodes of the show created by its in-house agency ‘Oatly Department of Mind Control’ (which replaced its marketing department in 2019), director Conor Finnegan and production company Nexus, along with puppet maker Andy Gent, best known for his work on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. 

Ten puppets and eight different sets were used to create the series, which kicks off with the five-minute pilot, Norm’s Old Pal Milk, which details the unusual pair’s origin story.

The New Norm&al Show aims to “kick off a nationwide conversation about how eating a plant-based diet is a totally normal choice these days, all through the medium of … puppets,” Oatly adds. 

Echoing the Oatly Meta Instagram video ad from late 2021, The New Norm&al Show often veers into meta territory, with Norm (voiced by The Office’s Alexander Perkins) occasionally reminding poor Al (Ethan Lawrence from After Life) that he is, in fact, just a puppet, and that everything he does and says has been scripted.

The pilot episode reveals the duo’s journey to becoming their sustainable, plant-based selves and how Norm had to ditch his old pal Milk (played by Transformers: The Last Knight actor Rob Witcomb), a brutish, science-sceptic plastic carton who can often be found loudly farting. 

Still from The New Norm&al Show by Oatly

Subsequent episodes promote ideas around flexitarianism (featuring some very cute anthropomorphised meatballs), with Norm singing a musical number featuring the lines “It’s okay! You don’t have to break up with meat forever. It’s alright to sometimes eat cheese whenever. Why not dip into the vegan world some days? Come on and eat the flexitarian way!” 

Another posits that eating a plant-based diet isn’t just for hipsters with beards and scribbly little tattoos, while one episode reassures those finding it hard to leave the dairy industry behind that old habits can be hard to shake off.

Still from The New Norm&al Show by Oatly

“After trying to help people eat more plant-based with super long Instagram posts, dorky Superbowl ads, nonsensical headlines and picking on dads in the UK, we’ve now landed on puppets to do the job,” says Oatly creative director Michael Lee. “The cool thing about The New Norm&al Show is that it lets us deliver a message that people might normally roll their eyes at, but because it’s puppets, well, who doesn’t like puppets?

“Norm & Al are really just about adding some fuzzy felt, wobbly arms and flappy heads with well-styled wigs to the plant-based movement, and if that all makes it easier for society to grab on to, then yeah, these puppets will be a total success.”

Finnegan adds: “I hope these simple carton head puppets help spread the good word and get more people to move from dairy to plant-based through the medium of song, dance and awkward silence. It couldn’t have gone butter.” 

The launch of the show will be supported by an OOH campaign and a partnership with the Guardian and Observer. Oatly also plans to launch the campaign across Europe and Australia over the next few weeks. 

Agency: Oatly Department of Mind Control
Director: Conor Finnegan
Production Company: Nexus
Puppet maker: Andy Gent