We Are All Little Lads Who Love Berries and Cream
Between the popularity of low-rise jeans, The Spice Girls dropping a new single, and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez rekindling their romance, it feels as if we've managed to transport ourselves back to the mid-2000's, a cultural reset apparently complete with commercials – namely, Starburst's iconic 2007 advertisement for their berries and cream-flavored candy.
Over the past several weeks, TikTok has undergone a massive transformation -- evolving from a platform where teens can dunk on Morrissey by dancing to The Smiths and somehow gain online clout through dumping cans of beans on people's porches to a forum for old English Lads with a passion for fruity desserts, all thanks to the re-emergence of the commercial after roughly 14 years. Formally entitled “Bus Station,” the 2007 advertisement for the Starburst variation introduced the world to the Little Lad – a Lord Farquad looking boy who apparently loves the fruit and dairy combo so much, he'll burst into song upon simply overhearing their mention – even at the bus stop.
"Berries and cream, berries and cream! I'm a little lad who loves berries and cream!" he sang, jumping and clapping along to tune before two modern strangers who seemingly want nothing more than to enjoy their novelty-flavored Starburst in peace.
The ad quickly went viral – well, as viral as something could go in 2007 -- taking over the pop culture lexicon, schoolyards, that part of your brain where commercial jingles get stuck, never to be released. Due to this popularity, the agency behind the commercial decided to make a sequel to their iconic work, dropping a hybrid origin story/tutorial on YouTube, explaining how the Little Lad dance came to be, and how viewers can recreate it at home.
“We actually kind of tried to make it viral, or at least aid it in being viral,” Gerry Graf, the executive creative director of the commercial, recently told AdWeek of the Little Lad's digital transition, adding that they were inspired by fan recreations of the Midas-touch Skittles commercial, an ad their agency also created in the mid-2000's
“That was how we knew what success was,” added Brandon Davis, who served as a copywriter for the iconic spot. “It was the people’s platform. We would read all the comments, and it was really funny when people hated it just as much as when they loved it.”
While the commercial's relevance and social media success waned over the decade and a half since it first hit the airwaves, the Little Lad ultimately prevailed – finding his way back into the digital limelight earlier this year. Although a video of the berries and cream dance tutorial was first posted on TikTok in January by Justin McElroy of the McElroy brothers alongside a caption encouraging users to “make great art with this sound,” as “its what we all need,” the Starburst-inspired trend didn't start taking off on the app until August, according to Know Your Meme (a sibling site to Cracked).
From videos showing off inadvertently lad-like haircuts …
… to clips complaining about the hazards of wearing sweatpants to bed …
… highly- themed celebrations of unofficial “Little Lad Day" on September 20 …
… cursed music mashups …
… and even more cursed music mashups – this time, featuring My Chemical Romance for that extra 2007-inspired flavor…
… the Little Lad who loves berries and cream has (star)burst beyond his commercial origins, joining the ranks of creators like Addison Rae, Charli D'Amelio, and that one dude who reviews types of lawns -- cementing himself as a true TikTok star. It's incredibly rare for a national TV advertisement to re-emerge roughly 14 years later, let alone, find itself at the center of a cultural obsession, yet Graf says he wasn't too shocked to see his spot makes the rounds on social media – even a decade and a half after it first confused the hell out of audiences everywhere.
“This one doesn’t surprise me,” Graf explained. “Most of the time when some of these come back, I’m kinda surprised. But knowing the talent and effort that created it, I can see it," he continued, calling the commercials accompanying tutorial “the first TikTok dance—that we just happened to create for YouTube.”
Ian Reichenthal, who served as another creative director on the project apparently agreed. “There’s no way to go into a project saying, ‘Let’s make a character that people will remember 14 years later,” he explained to the industry publication. “I’m super happy to see that happen, but I don’t know why.”
It seems the actor behind Little Lad – a New York City-based dancer, choreographer, and writer named Jack Ferver – also didn't fully comprehend the commercial player's viral reemergence, dubbing TikTok's berries and cream mania “strange" in a recent social media post. Although since appearing in the iconic ad, Ferver has gone on to make a name for themselves in the world of dance, partaking in several “genre-defying” performances, according to their website biography, some of which have been likened to exorcisms, and noted for their humor, it seems even with this success, the dancer has decided to return to their humble, Lad-tastic roots, launching a TikTok page and YouTube channel dedicated to reviving their iconic character.
“It’s strange,” they wrote on Instagram earlier this month alongside a series of photos featuring them posing next to light pink flowers. “After all these years. To see a character I created a hundred years ago… return….. of its own free will…. Doesn’t this flower remind you of berries… berries……. and what else?”