CAMPAIGNS: Crustless IronKids shows real PR bite

PR Team: Sara Lee Bakery Group (Chicago) and Alan Taylor Communications (New York) Campaign: Introducing crustless bread Time Frame: May 2002 Budget: Under $125,000 As long as moms have made sandwiches, kids have rejected the crusts. So Sara Lee figured it had a winner when it came up with a bread with the crust already cut off. But the company didn't quite trust its instincts - after all, bread is "a category that doesn't have a lot of flash and sizzle," says Steve Mura, manager of event marketing and consumer promotion for Sara Lee. Alan Taylor Communications' challenge, therefore, was to draw maximum media coverage for the new product in time for the Food Marketing Institute Show, the annual showcase for food companies starting May 5 in Chicago. Strategy Crustless bread seemed like such a natural attention-getter that the agency's main concern was to be prepared - and not make any mistakes. "Something this unique only comes along every decade or so," says Mark Beal, EVP with Alan Taylor. "This product didn't need a stunt; it didn't need a celebrity endorser. It stands on its own. We just had to make sure all our ducks were in a row." While the main message was the crustless innovation, Sara Lee wanted to appeal to parents as well. It wasn't enough to save them the effort of cutting off the crust - parents had to be assured the bread was nutritious, too. Tactics Alan Taylor started by commissioning a national survey of American kids and moms. The results quelled doubts about the potential market - and media appeal - for the new IronKids crustless bread: nearly 40% of kids ask their moms to cut the crust off their bread. To attract TV coverage, Beal knew the product needed visuals that could tell the decrusting story. To get it right, the agency shot video of the decrusting process for two straight days. To kick off what they expected to be a groundswell of coverage, Sara Lee and Alan Taylor decided to offer USA Today an exclusive on the story. "You always have to weigh the risks of offering exclusives, but we felt we got better coverage from USA Today by offering it to them," Beal says. When the story appeared May 2, three days before the Food Marketing Institute Show, Alan Taylor hand-delivered the VNR to each of the network news feeds, as well as CNN and national morning and late-night TV programs. They also pitched the story to the AP, Reuters, and every news outlet planning to cover the trade show. "There were no mass mailings - everything was one-on-one," Beal says. Results Giving USA Today the exclusive turned out to be a risk worth taking, as the rest of the media ate up the crustless bread story. By the next morning, more than 200 TV stations aired the story, and the total number of stories would triple within two weeks. Crustless bread was featured on NBC Nightly News, and the wire services distributed the story worldwide - such major dailies as The New York Times and The Times of London carried it. In less than two weeks, more than 150 million media impressions were generated. The publicity prompted grocers to find shelf space for the product as it was rolled into different markets. And while Sara Lee reps say they are pleased with initial sales, the product has been introduced slowly, having arrived in some markets six months ago, and others only within the last month - making it difficult to measure overall sales at this point. Future At the time of the "unofficial" launch, the bread was only in about one-third of Sara Lee's markets. As the bread is introduced to additional markets, the local media have been covering it again, Beal says. The second wave of the campaign will be supported by two IronKids Crustless PT Cruisers, traveling the country with samples of the bread.

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