Client: Lipton Cold Brew (Englewood Cliffs, NJ)
PR Team:LaForce & Stevens (New York)
Campaign:Human Teabag Tour
Time Frame: Summer 2001
The first-ever automobile (or horseless carriage) was originally
dismissed as useless. Same for the phonograph, the steam engine for
trains, and countless other inventions. Put simply, creating convenience
for consumers quite often doesn't sell as easily as it should. And
that's just the problem Lipton encountered when it first introduced
Lipton Cold Brew, 100% natural iced tea that brews in cold water instead
With the "Anywhere There's Water" ad campaign already running, Lipton
asked PR agency LaForce & Stevens to come up with a way of supplementing
the ads. "The goal was to make it more energizing," says Sheila
McCraith, brand assistance at Lipton International. "We wanted people to
think of iced tea in a new light."
That in mind, LaForce & Stevens needed to come up with an idea that
would "in a very fundamental way demonstrate the effectiveness of the
product - the unique consumer benefit," says partner James LaForce. But
it had to be done in a way that would show people that Cold Brew wasn't
only advantageous, but something they'd want to buy.
At an agency brainstorming meeting, Lesley Stevens, LaForce's partner,
offered up the idea of dressing up morning TV anchors in a giant teabag
suit, and dropping them in a clear vat of cold water. "We all rolled our
eyes," LaForce recalls. And despite the fact that the agency already had
much of the equipment it needed from a prior internal Lipton event,
LaForce says, "It all seemed like a logistical nightmare. But it created
such a funny image that we realized it could really work."
"We definitely had confidence," says McCraith. "The question was is it
as big as we think it can be. But talking to LaForce, it was hard not to
believe it. You just don't normally see someone dressed in teabags."
Relying on that truism, the agency started by sending still pictures and
videotapes to news outlets. But they weren't necessarily buying it right
away. "They did need convincing because it was so quirky and different,"
McCraith claims. "But once we did the first two, sending the videotapes
to the other stations made it easy. They thought this was a great thing
for a weatherman to do."
"People really got off on the idea of getting to humiliate their
anchors," says LaForce. "It was lighthearted, fun, interactive, and
silly, and in a clear visual sense showed that the water changes color
before your eyes. You see it instantly."
McCraith even saw it firsthand, as she donned the human teabag outfit on
CBS' The Early Show, and she even drank the tea from her dunking. "It
was as refreshing as can be," she claims. "What's more, it looked like I
had a self tan for a day." But for the most part, onlookers didn't drink
the tea made by the human teabags. "We made pitchers of tea at every
location and handed it out, along with boxed samples. Otherwise, it's
kind of gross," LaForce says (even though McCraith would likely
The sheer fun of the human teabag segment usually had it running well
over its allotted airtime.
"CBS was supposed to be really tight, like a minute forty-five, and
ended up being seven minutes," McCraith recalls. "That was the magic of
the whole thing." Of course, McCraith also attributes some of that
"magic" to the summer being slow for news, as well as the fact that the
campaign came during a heat wave. Nevertheless, the human tea-bag was
featured in a 30-minute segment on Good Day New York, as well as on
CNBC, and local morning shows in San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Boston, and
Arizona. Lipton also claims an increase in sales since the campaign, as
well as positive feedback from consumers.
LaForce says he hopes to work with Lipton again, adding that he believes
everyone was happy with the results of the campaign. "We are talking to
them about other ideas," says McCraith. "They're a very creative group