How Fudgie the Whale got some airtime on ‘Live with Kelly and Ryan’

Carvel went big for Kelly Ripa’s 50th birthday.

Campaign: Fudgie the Whale on Live with Kelly and Ryan
Company: Carvel (owned by Focus Brands)
Agency partners: Zeno Group (PR)
Duration: October 2, 2020

Carvel got some airtime on Live with Kelly and Ryan when it surprised Kelly Ripa with a custom, triple-decker Fudgie the Whale cake for her 50th birthday.

“One great thing about our brand is we have a really dedicated approach to creating one-to-one relationships with our fans,” said Marissa Sharpless, Focus Brands’ director of PR and specialty brands.

For the most part, this occurs over social media. Kelly Ripa who co-hosts Live with Kelly and Ryan with Ryan Seacrest, happens to be among the ice-cream brand’s stable of loyal fans.

“We knew that she was coming up on a pretty momentous birthday this year,” Sharpless said. “As we looked at 2020, we knew we wanted to help her celebrate the big day.”

COVID-19 threw a wrench into Carvel’s planning. As the pandemic raged across the country, Ripa and Seacrest joined millions of Americans in working from home. A few weeks before her birthday, however, Ripa and Seacrest returned to the studio. The team revved into overdrive.

After approaching the show about surprising Ripa with a birthday cake, Carvel went to work creating an elaborate, three-tier Fudgie the Whale design, which was assembled on-set. 

“When you approach big morning shows, there is usually a dollar sign attached to it,” Sharpless said.

Not in this case: Carvel was able to capitalize on its longstanding relationship with Ripa, creating a cake (and campaign) that focused on celebrating the talk show star rather than the brand behind it.

Because Carvel wasn’t sure exactly how the cake would be incorporated into the show, it deployed Zeno Group to watch the segment and be prepared to post on social media. When the show’s crew surprised Ripa with the cake on-air, Carvel was ready to broadcast and amplify the moment on social media.

During the weekend of October 2-4, traffic to Carvel’s homepage increased by 267% from that same weekend a year before. Meanwhile, the cake section of the brand’s website saw an 84% year-over-year traffic increase.

Carvel gained a huge organic boost on social media, with Live with Kelly and Ryan posting about the cake on Instagram and Twitter. Carvel also grew its own social following, adding 116 users on Instagram, 69 on Facebook and 29 on Twitter between October 2-3.

The custom cake led to a flurry of earned media placements on ABC News, Good Morning America, Yahoo News and PureWow.

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