what were they thinking?

Marketer: General Mills...
September 1, 1999

Marketer: General Mills

Paul Wright, marketing manager, children’s cereals

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Kid Connection, New York

David Shea, senior VP/creative director/copy writer; Tony Lauricella, art director; Dean Shoukas, senior producer

Spot shop: Rhythm & Hues, Los Angeles; Michael Patterson, director

Post: Rhythm & Hues, Los Angeles; Nate Hubbard, editor

Music: New York Noise, New York

Markets: U.S. national

The idea: To leverage the Reese’s brand name to show kids ages nine to 13 that with Reese’s Puffs cereal, they can have candy for breakfast.

The campaign: New spot Diner is being added to the ‘Smart Kids’ campaign, which has touted Reese’s Puffs cereal on and off since General Mills launched the product just over four years ago. Diner has a media budget of about US$4 million and started airing August 23 on kid cable during early morning, early fringe and weekend morning time slots.

The strategy:

In a way, the agency had it made with this one: Reese’s Puffs was born already attached to a licensed brand name going back to the 1920s. Kids already knew Reese’s, and more importantly, already associated the Reese’s brand with a distinctive peanut butter-chocolate taste. All the ads had to do was let kids know that with Reese’s Puffs, they can have the equivalent of little peanut butter cups floating in milk for breakfast. As creative director Dave Shea says: ‘There’s already a set expectation for Reese’s, and if we can say we’re the cereal that meets that expectation, that’s gold for a marketer.’

Of course having candy for breakfast is every kid’s dream, but Shea admits he was a little reluctant to come right out and say it-at first. ‘We danced around that for two spots, not saying exactly what we were,’ he says. ‘But then finally, someone said let’s just call the kettle black and say, hey, you like candy for breakfast? Well this is the next best thing.’

Shea decided to get the message across with a series of story line-driven spots narrated by ‘smart kids’-kids with attitude clued in to the secret to wrangling candy for breakfast. In Diner, the latest spot, a pint-sized wiseguy visits a greasy spoon where his older sister works, discovers the cereal, has the ubiquitous taste reaction (complete with spinning diner stool and composited chocolate and peanut butter swirls), then flips his sis a 5¢ tip. The spot’s visual and musical style sets it apart from other ads, with unusual camera angles, sudden ramps in film speed and a sophisticated, jazzy soundtrack.

In fact, Shea says the spot is aimed a little older than ads for General Mills’ other sugary day-starters such as Trix, Cocoa Puffs and Cookie Crisp. Positioning the product for kids ages nine to 13, Shea says, helps fit it in nicely with the rest of the chocolate portfolio and minimizes cross-brand competition.

While on-screen narration and a developed story line set the spot apart, Shea says he always works with the same basic elements. ‘In every single commercial that we create for General Mills, you will most likely see a visual display of what you can expect to get in a spoonful, an attempt to dimentionalize that taste,’ he says. ‘If we’re talking about Cocoa Puffs, you’re going to see rich, flowing chocolate. If we’re talking about Cookie Crisp, we might show fresh-baked cookies coming out of an oven.’ The key here, says Shea, is creating a sequence that pulls kids right into the taste experience, rather than just describing the cereal.

Ad support for the brand has been relatively thin thus far, with only four spots in four years. Still, Paul Wright, marketing manager for children’s cereals at General Mills, says the cereal is selling well, having grown its share of the cereal market by 22% over the past year. The cereal, which licenses the Reese’s name from Hershey Foods, went from regional to national U.S. distribution about a year ago, and Shea says marketing support will pick up, with plans already underway to produce a new spot.

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