CAMPAIGNS: A Toastermobile pops up and sells

Client: Author Bob Blumer

Client: Author Bob Blumer

Client: Author Bob Blumer



PR Team: Ballantine Books inhouse publicity, Circle 3 Media, Mary Ann

Gilderbloom



Campaign: The Surreal Gourmet’s Off the Eaten Path Book Tour



Time Frame: May to August 2000



Budget: dollars 25,000 +





Book PR



An arresting visual can go a long way toward generating media

interest.



To publicize his new cookbook, Off the Eaten Path, beyond the typical

book and food reporters, author Bob Blumer - aka The Surreal Gourmet -

came up with a compelling prop.



Blumer, who specializes in offbeat recipes and cooking methods, lined up

sponsors, including Weber Grills and WineX Magazine, which contributed

dollars 250,000 to build a fully functional cooking trailer designed to

look like a toaster - complete with two pieces of bread sticking out on

top.



The Toastermobile became the focal point of a 30-city book tour.





Strategy



Ballantine’s publicity team had agreed to a 10-city tour, including

major markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, to create

some early momentum for the book when it was released in May. On his

own, Blumer then had freelance book publicist Mary Ann Gilderbloom take

over to line up additional cities, while San Diego-based Circle 3

Media’s Jill Magino reached out to national media to alert them to the

tour.



’The strategy was to build a national story out of the local small

victories,’ Blumer explains. ’So by the time I got to the East Coast, I

would get the attention of people like CNN, who would have noticed that

the story had snowballed into something worth covering.’





Tactics



Marie Coolman, Ballantine Books’ West Coast publicity director, says

that in April and May she sent out press kits complete with a bio,

pictures and a copy of the book, and then followed up with phone pitches

tailored for each reporter. ’For food writers I mentioned the recipes

were very quick and used fresh ingredients,’ she says. ’For pop culture

and lifestyle TV and print reporters as well as drive-time radio, we

focused on some of the more unusual preparations, specifically salmon

cooked in the dishwasher or grilled cheese sandwiches made with an

iron.’ Coolman says other reporters were lured by Blumer’s unusual food

presentation, such as Shrimp on the Barbie, which uses a real Barbie

doll.



Coolman and Blumer also sought to have the Toastermobile parked outside

the bookstore during appearances, which kept owners happy by luring in

the curious. At almost every stop, Blumer augmented these signings by

providing cooking demonstrations, often in the presence of local TV

crews.



’My cooking is quite visual so it lends itself to television,’ Blumer

says. ’But at the same time, the book provides depth that appeals to the

print publications.’



Jill Magino captured the attention of the national media by focusing her

pitch on the Toastermobile, often using local TV clips from early tour

appearances.





Results



The tour generated local TV and radio coverage in every city it went to,

and print in most of them. Blumer realized his goal of getting national

press out of local coverage; national ink included People magazine,

Parade, the Associated Press, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and The Wall

Street Journal. (The Journal profiled Blumer late last year in a feature

on preparing food with dishwashers and other non-cooking

appliances.)



Blumer also filmed segments for Roseanne, Later Today, Emeril Legasse

(on the Food Network), CNN and the QVC shopping channel. Most

importantly, Blumer says, Off the Eaten Path is now in its third

printing after less than three months on the shelves.





Future



The Toastermobile tour winds down at the end of August back where it

began, in Los Angeles. Several appearances have already been lined up,

including The Donnie and Marie Show and the TNT Network’s Dinner and a

Movie. Blumer and Magino are also negotiating with eBay to have the

Toastermobile auctioned off once the tour is completed.



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