Cookie Monster may bring success to generic produce promotion

04/04/2014 11:09:00 AM
Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy ChiefChuck Robinson, Assistant Copy ChiefThe pros and cons of generic advertising have surfaced again, this time with everyone getting bear hugs from shaggy “Sesame Street” Muppet characters.

Through the auspices of the Produce Marketing Association, marketers of fresh produce can use images of nine “Sesame Street” characters on packaging and in advertising at little cost. PMA made guidelines for using the characters available March 31.

During a video the announcer describes what he calls a unified campaign with roles for everyone in the fresh produce industry.

“This is big and different than anything done before. This isn’t just about putting a sticker on bags of fruit,” he said.

Todd Putman, chief marketing officer for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse Farms and chairman of the PMA “Sesame Street” task force, said the partnership will produce an effective national campaign with strong retailer support.

The Packer’s national editor, Tom Karst, rounded up some interesting comments from a couple of industry leaders who were not drinking the “Sesame Street” Kool-Aid.

Roger Pepperl, marketing director of Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers, said generic advertising such as this would not help his company stand out.

The comments echoed comments he made in a 2005 column for The Packer, when he addressed the issue in the context of the Washington Apple Commission’s mandatory per-box fees for generic promotions, which were found unconstitutional by a federal district judge two years before.

In his 2005 column, he said apple grower-shippers could only survive in an age of increasing company consolidation with “strong, independent marketing by the grower-shippers themselves.”

In the competitive environment, companies need to hire the right people and stay focused, he said.

The fresh produce industry has dealt with generic advertising mostly in regard to grower assessments and free speech issues.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the marketing order and generic advertising for California peaches, plums and nectarines did not violate the First Amendment. In 2000, a federal judge in Fresno, Calif., backed the California Table Grape Commission’s assessment to pay for generic advertising.


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