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Big G promos cast web as virtual big box

Marketer: General Mills Snacks Unlimited-Andrea Arlich, promotion planner, kid snacks; John Koehler, assistant marketing manager, Fruit Roll-Ups; Adrienne Klembara, marketing assistant, Gushers; Soma Jurgensen, senior promotion planner; Virginia Brown, marketing assistant; Heather Kouri, marketing analyst; Kate Fabienke, assistant promotion manager, premiums...
January 1, 2001

Marketer: General Mills Snacks Unlimited-Andrea Arlich, promotion planner, kid snacks; John Koehler, assistant marketing manager, Fruit Roll-Ups; Adrienne Klembara, marketing assistant, Gushers; Soma Jurgensen, senior promotion planner; Virginia Brown, marketing assistant; Heather Kouri, marketing analyst; Kate Fabienke, assistant promotion manager, premiums

Web Studio: Webfinity Studios-Shelley Pritikin, VP of marketing and client services; George Champlin, creative director; Lauren Tank, producer

The idea: To build on the excitement of product events for Fruit Gushers, Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot by extending interactive on-pack activities to the web.

The campaigns: About 13 million packages of Fruit Gushers liquid center candies will sport splashes touting a Gushers Mystery Flavors event running from January through June. Three mystery flavors will be mixed in with regular Gushers across the existing seven SKUs. Blue Raspberry debuts in January, Pink Lemonade in February, and Cotton Candy in May. An on-pack decoder allows kids to decipher the names of the flavors, which double as passwords to access a branded Mystery Gushers Game on Zeeks.com. The packs and website will provide entry forms for a sweeps running until June 29 dangling five grand-prize Sony mini system stereos, 25 first-place Sony boom box radios and 50 second-prize Sony Discmans. Kid cable TV spots will support.

A Fruit Roll-Ups tattoo promotion will run concurrently, with about 15 million packs featuring transferable tattoos printed right on the product. (You just wet your fave body part and slap it on.) Splashes (along with transferable Zeeks.com URL tattoos printed on the fruit squares) will point kids to Zeeks for a variety of branded tattoo games.

Finally, approximately 1.6 million Club Packs of Fruit Gushers, Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot will introduce three original characters in a ‘Mission 2001: Scouts in Space’ promotion. One of three plastic character premiums will ship in each window-box pack, with on-pack artwork directing kids to Zeeks.com to play a proprietary Space Bowling game. The packs will be available in club stores such as Costco and Sam’s from around March through April 2001.

The strategy:

TV has 30-second spots, magazines have print ads, and radio has 15-second messages. With all of these mediums, the right format for advertising has been self-evident. Then came the Internet. Advertisers knew they could use it-they just weren’t sure how.

Finally, the definitive on-line messaging format for kids has arrived: Branded games. ‘Playing games is the number-one on-line activity among kids,’ says Webfinity’s Shelley Pritikin. ‘They will spend a whole eight minutes with your promotion if you give them something they want that’s really great.’

Games are fast becoming the format of choice for the on-line components of promos from the packaged goods set. For this promotion, General Mills’s Andrea Arlich says the web was viewed primarily as an extension of the packaging, a cost-effective way to expand on the relatively simple on-pack puzzles and activities that the packaged goods giant has used to bond with kids for years. (Webfinity charges from US$30,000 to US$150,000 for game development and hosting.) But Arlich says she doesn’t have unrealistic hopes for the Net: Product events such as the mystery flavors, premiums and way-cool edible-ink transferable tattoos remain the stars of the show.

Arlich confesses that she has no idea how many kids will actually follow the packaging prompts on-line. That was the main reason she chose to have Zeeks.com host the promo, instead of building a stand-alone site, as General Mills has done for Cheerios.com and YouRuleSchool.com. ‘At this point, it doesn’t make sense for us to create our own kid-friendly sites, simply because there’s no reason for kids to go there yet,’ says Arlich. ‘They’re going to Zeeks.com already, so why not just have a link through there?’ Even if no kids jump on-line just because of the package splashes, Zeeks guarantees at least three million on-line impressions a month through its regular traffic, adds Pritikin.

But while kid sites tout cyberspace as the promo playground of the future, General Mills hasn’t made a big commitment yet: The company is waiting to see if undisclosed benchmarks are met when it comes to how packaging pointers translate into on-line visitors, and ultimately, sales. ‘I think there’s always room for improvement,’ Arlich says. ‘We know for sure that TV works, it’s just a matter of what additional elements we should be using. This promotion will be a great test to see if we should continue having a presence on the Internet.’

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