Stay Tuned/4 May 1997

From Eccentric Flower

 



stay tuned
 



4 May 1997
(Sunday Papers)


Happy Mother's Day! No, Mother's Day isn't really until next Sunday ... don't panic ... but as is typical, the hard sell for the holiday happens the weekend before the actual event. This week, every other ad is a "great gift idea for Mom!" Next week will be dead slow. Watch and see.


Image:65Million.jpg


The Continuing Cereal

I don't generally comment on the cereal packaging itself; too easy a target. But there are some targets you can't pass up, and I found one in my local supermarket on Saturday.

Image:LostWorld.jpg

I wish I could do this box justice with an image. The whole background, all over the box, is red reflective foil. The movie logo is also in three-color reflective foil and is embossed into the cardboard. The printing costs for this box of cereal, I assure you, were murderous.

The "prehistoric marshmallow shapes" are a pink triceratops, a purple and white striped velociraptor, a green and white dinosaur egg, and a green/yellow swirl tyrannosaurus rex. (Our standard of literacy is declining rapidly, but by God, we lead the world in multicolored marshmallow extrusion technology!)

But wait, there's more.

There's a contest here. "If you hear this box ROAR, you could win a Lost World Adventure." Some boxes apparently have a gadget that makes a noise when you open the box top, and a certificate telling what you've won. (Mine didn't, alas.) Haven't manufacturers learned from the Coca-Cola MagiCans debacle that putting foreign objects into the food is a no-no? I suppose that in cereal it's considered more acceptable; after all, they've been putting cheap toys into the boxes for years.

By the by, the "Lost World Adventure" is one of those notoriously difficult-to-award travel prizes (see the McRules article) - a trip to New Zealand and Australia. (Wonder how Australians would like that characterization? Maybe that's why the nature of the prize is buried in the fine print.) Odds of winning: 1 in 159,000,000. In addition to all the usual legalese, there's even more negotiation involved than usual, because if you put a contest in a cereal box, there's a very good chance that the winner will be a minor. The contest rules occupy one entire side panel of the box. They're very interesting, but the red foil makes them eyestraining to read. Even I'm not cynical enough to claim that's deliberate.

But wait, there's more.

On the back is a "DNA word search" where the letters are arranged along DNA strands. (My friend's immediate reaction: "Gee, how many words can you make with only the letters A, C, G, and T?") Also a "discovery dig" where you have to match the dinosaur bones on the right with the "pictures" of intact live dinos on the right. These pictures look like they were done from models used in the movie. The whole thing is done in hallucinatory reflective colors. Bad dinosaur drug trip, man! And why are dinos inevitably portrayed in greens and blues when no one has the slightest idea what color they really were? Never mind.

And if that's still not enough, you can read the bottom of the box, which I, perversely, have reproduced at the top of this page.

You see why I couldn't resist this particular cereal box. General Mills, eager to exploit a promotional connection which must have cost them a bundle, is plastering Lost World logos and contest banners over most of their cereals, but this one is special. They think so too: the line at the very top of the front panel says "Collector's Edition." Well, even if that's so, I've already ruined mine. I cut it apart so I could scan it. And the cereal itself went directly into the trash.

Well, not directly. I had a bowl. It tasted about like you'd expect.


A Bad Egg
Image:CowEgg.jpg

I was asked specifically to include this. So I am. It's one of those strange ceramic things you see in Parade every week. This one is maybe more bizarre than most (except, of course, Eric's First Fries, the all-time champ to date).

It's an egg, painted and textured to look like a barn, and not nearly big enough to hold the very confused-looking cow which is sticking its head out the stall window. It seemed kitschy yet innocuous to me ... but I have to admit, it becomes more Magritte every time I look at the picture.


Who's Who In Cheese,
and Other Tales Of Nomenclature

Sargento, whom I dissed in the [now-defunct] URL Watch as having one of the most tedious corporate Web sites around, has started to enter the retail market in the Boston area - I noticed their products in my supermarket a few weeks back. Now, this week, I see an ad for a company which uses the brand Sorrento. The products are similar, the packaging is similar, and even the lettering in the name is similar. I'm expecting to see news of the lawsuit any minute now.


Meanwhile, Amoré cat food has made its debut. No dumber than any other cat food name. But wait ... what's this fine print in the corner of the ad? "Amoré (Ah-Moh-Reh) means 'love' in Italian."

Oh, thank you so much for cluing me in! Insulting my intelligence is not a sound method of getting me to buy your product.


I also seem to have an ad here for Country Time "Lem'n Berry Sippers" mix. Now, let's review. These cutesyisms are largely ignored by consumers, who are rightly embarrassed by them. The only reasons for using them are: 1) It takes the place of an ingredient that they cannot legally claim on the label (i.e. if there's no actual lemon in the product) or 2) it's to provide a trademarkable term. Invented words like "Kodak" are beloved by corporations for exactly this reason. It's hard to get a trademark on the word "lemon."

In this case, judging from the rest of the label, it looks like reason number two. The product does actually contain lemon, and the "TM" mark on the front is quite prominent. Another minor mystery solved. Next time you wonder "why does that product have such a godawful name?" remember this paragraph.


Miscellany

K-Y brand. Making love better.

Whew! Did I really just see that ad? Is K-Y finally attempting to shed its image as the stodgy grandmother of lubricants? Is this actually a K-Y product in this Astroglide-like squeeze bottle, being billed as having a "silky, smooth, natural feel"? Someone pinch me.

OK, so there's one person over at McNeil who actually has interesting ideas every now and then. Let's see how long he lasts. Meanwhile, I'll be watching eagerly for the appearance of this product. K-Y is at my supermarket, but I have to go all the way across town to buy Astroglide.


Hmm. "Free StoveTop Stuffing Mix Flexible Serve Measuring Cup with Proofs-of-Purchase." That's right, buy two big canisters of StoveTop, send in the store receipts, and in only 6 to 8 weeks, get a small plastic measuring cup that you could have purchased for under two bucks in your grocery store (and gotten the rest of the set as well). Makes perfect sense to me.


And finally, a bonus cereal item. Kellogg's now has Tropical Forest Froot Loops (with "tropical forest marshmallows" - good God), and you should "look on specially marked packages to find out how you can help save the rainforests"!

The ad has not only a URL for a new Kellogg's subsite - www.toucansam.com - but also the URL for Global Releaf 2000 (along with its logo). Unfortunately, I have been to both sites up and down, and I'm still not sure where the money is. Pardon me for being a grouch, but I don't believe in higher corporate ideals. If Kellogg's really wants to convince me that they care about the rainforest, they have to speak with their money. Words don't count; even the best corporations lie constantly. It's called "public relations."

So far, I haven't seen anything that suggests Kellogg's is spending a cent for Global Releaf. As I say, call me a grouch if you like.



Hindsight: 22 February 2007

These columns are now reaching an age where readers might need to be reminded of the lovely MagiCans promotion, so I have added a link to the Snopes page above. Apologies for the popups and other annoyances at the Snopes site.

In terms of my grousing about Amoré, I would like to remind you to read The Mustard Manifesto if you have not already done so.

I have left the Toucan Sam URL in, although of course it no longer is about Tropical Forest Fruit Loops (as of this date, it was a rather clever Flash presentation involving various islands and Blackbeak the Pirate; by the time you next see it, it will probably be something else). Tropical Forest Fruit Loops are no more. Froot Loops is one of several General Mills cereals that has its own subsite, and it's usually less obnoxious than, say, recent Frosted Flakes promotions that try to make out that cereal as some kind of high-performance sports food.

Several months later, General Mills went just as overboard with the 1998 Winter Olympics promotional rights as it had with the Lost World tie-in, including the obligatory disgusting limited-release cereal with very odd marshmallow shapes.

Originally I was confused about K-Y, since I could've sworn Johnson & Johnson made it ... that's when I learned that K-Y is one of those rare "shared brands" ... there are three different companies, each making a different product with the K-Y name on it. Go figure.


and now back to our program


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