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Dusting off the sponsorship model for a new web world order

A true on-line pioneer with four years of webtoon experience under his belt, The Ren & Stimpy Show creator and Spumco helmer John Kricfalusi believes the future of everything is on the Internet. Armed with a new Net ad model that...
May 1, 2001

A true on-line pioneer with four years of webtoon experience under his belt, The Ren & Stimpy Show creator and Spumco helmer John Kricfalusi believes the future of everything is on the Internet. Armed with a new Net ad model that hearkens back to the good ole days of early TV, he has branched out into web advertising with an on-line commercial for Quisp cereal that launched in March on www.quisp.com.

Long before Quisp came along, Kricfalusi had been trying to reinvent the fun feeling from cereal commercials in the `50s and `60s in his web ad work. He had also been toying with a direct sponsorship model from the same era in which TV show characters promoted products smack-dab in the middle of their episodes.

To pitch his idea, he created a demo based on a fake cereal called Rice Patooties and a character named Wally Whimsy, who interacts with kids eating the cereal and introduces his own show at the end. It’s advertainment, which is not so popular on networks, but can run unhindered on the Internet. Enter Foote, Cone & Belding creative director Gary Rosenbaum, who introduced Kricfalusi to the Quisp on-line project in ’99.

Launched in 1965 and wildly popular until the early `70s, the Quisp cereal brand was originally centered on cartoon characters with strong kid appeal. Quisp sponsored 60-second mini-drama commercial segments-developed and produced by Rocky & Bullwinkle creator Jay Ward-in various Saturday morning TV shows during peak baby boomer years from 1965 to 1971. After 1971, Quisp sales declined and Quaker slowly phased the cereal out of production.

But Quispmania never fully disappeared. Nostalgic boomers seemed to keep on connecting with the cereal, and it survived in limited distribution without marketing support. And though Quaker currently only distributes Quisp to 7% of all stores in the U.S., the cereal is currently the company’s best-selling cereal on the web, outperforming its nearest competitor by almost 40%. Adults currently make the bulk of purchases, but Quaker sees kids as a growth demo.

To tap into that new potential consumer group, Quaker brought John K. on-board to help redesign the back of the cereal’s box with a unique on-line cartoon commercial hook. The idea was to start a story line on the back of boxes with a cliffhanger comic strip that directed the consumer to the Quisp website for the ending. The box-back and webtoon were the two main components of the Quisp relaunch, tied to the website’s redesign in December. The three-minute on-line Flash cartoon features the propeller-hatted and perpetually cross-eyed Quisp alien character on a quest-for-Quisp adventure. A second Quisp webtoon commercial may be in the works depending on kid hits and sales.

Since the first cartoon ad’s addition to the site, visitors have more than doubled from February figures, with close to 30,000 in March. Quaker is increasing Quisp’s store distribution, but sales are still mostly on-line at US$2.99 a box.

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