Nut farmers are betting on single Super Bowl ad

Peanuts: A Calif. cooperative figures "cost per eyeball" makes Super Bowl ad cheap.

February 05, 2005|By THE BOSTON GLOBE

Emerald of California is putting all its nuts in a single bowl: the Super Bowl.

A newcomer to the snack food aisle, the company is bucking the conventional advertising wisdom that repetition is the cornerstone of success. Instead, it's betting on one 30-second spot during tomorrow's Super Bowl to make people take notice.

"We can buy one spot, and we can make one ad for that one spot," said Sandra McBride, Emerald's vice president of marketing. "We've got to make it work for us."

Like in 1999, Emerald is counting on television's marquee advertising event to imprint its little-known name on people's minds. The game is expected to draw 145 million viewers, and most actually stay tuned during commercial breaks because advertisers unveil their best spots during the game.

That's both the opportunity and the challenge for smaller advertisers like Emerald. They can reach a huge audience with a single ad. Even at a rate of $2.4 million for 30 seconds of air time, advertisers said, the Super Bowl is among the cheapest advertising available when you factor in the "cost per eyeball."

But with companies trying to one-up each other for people's attention and recall, it's also easy to get lost in the crowd.

Emerald is one of about 30 advertisers lined up for the game, and about a third of those advertisers buy multiple spots. Anheuser-Busch Cos. alone has five minutes of air time during this year's game.

Multiple ad agencies work the better part of the year for the St. Louis beer maker to produce three dozen or so Super Bowl spots, most of which are never aired.

For a relative unknown, the creativity of the ad is all the more important. And the buzz has already started.

Fox, which is broadcasting the Super Bowl, rejected two ads submitted by domain name registrar that show a generously endowed dancer in a skimpy tank top previewing her halftime show for a Senate censorship committee. The network ultimately OK'd a tamer version of the ad.

The first time Monster advertised on network television was during the 1999 Super Bowl. The Super Bowl turned the young company into a household name. But as Monster shifts its focus to smaller employers, it is also shifting its advertising away from the Super Bowl.

"It was great," said Jeffrey C. Taylor, founder and chairman of Monster, the No. 1 job-search Web site. "It really defined our brand. But it started to seem normal for us to be in the Super Bowl. Monster has never been normal. We've always been break-out."

Emerald first appeared on the national ad scene during the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, just after the snack-nut brand, a division of the farmers' cooperative Diamond of California, was introduced.

Created by San Francisco ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which is known for the "Got Milk?" campaign, the series of 15-second ads depicted kooky scenarios with "Egomaniacal Normans," "Egyptian Navigators," "Envious Nomads" and other "ENs" who love Emerald Nuts.

The ads then disappeared from prime-time network television (though they popped up on an assortment of cable shows). They reappeared during the World Series, only to disappear again.

The company, whose products include pecans, mixed nuts, peanuts and almonds, is presenting a new spot for the Super Bowl.

Suffice to say it involves Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, a unicorn, and a father who doesn't want to share his Emerald Nuts with his children.

There's a lot riding on the ad. Planters dominates the snack-nut aisle. Until the introduction of Emerald Nuts in August, Planters was the only nationally branded snack nut. Even for an established company like Diamond, it's not easy to persuade retailers to make room on their shelves for a new and unproven product.

Advertising at big-draw events like the Olympics and Super Bowl certainly helps pave the way, advertising executives said. Retailers take the ad investments as a sign the company will aggressively support its brand, and will stock the product in anticipation of a sales boost after the ads.

To give its Super Bowl ad staying power, Emerald ran a full-page ad in USA Today directing people to its Super Bowl ad and giving them a coupon for its nuts. Its Super Bowl ad will run for a week after the game. And the company has an online tie-in involving an angry leprechaun who was cut from the Super Bowl ad. After that, it's up to the nuts themselves.

Emerald Nuts come in containers that fit inside cup holders for folks on the go. Its lids measure out the USDA-recommended 1.5-ounce daily serving of nuts.

"It's nuts - people aren't going to think hard about it," said Grant Pace, creator of the Bud Bowl and executive creative director at Lynnfield ad agency Conover Tuttle Pace. "What you want is for people to see you in the store and think, `I saw these guys on Super Bowl. It must be pretty decent stuff.' "

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