Why, Yes, This is a Fluff Piece

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Who says you need gajillion-dollar marketing campaigns to boost sales? Take little Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Mass., the maker of Marshmallow Fluff. According to VP-Sales and Marketing Dan Quirk, the company gets by with a few black-and-white newspaper ads in the fall, when it sees a yearly bump in sales due to the holiday baking season (agency is Portsmouth, N.H.-based Fuze). Until June of this year, that is, when Massachusetts State Sen. Jarrett Barrios-no doubt in an attempt to "protect the children"-tried to pass a law to ban the Fluffernutter sandwich from school lunches. For those of you not in the know, Fluff is a gooey white treat that comes in a jar; Fluffernutter is the combination of Fluff and peanut butter. Both are considered, if not a delicacy, then definitely a favored childhood treat-as American as apple pie, flags, hot dogs and meddling politicians.

Reaction to Barrios' proposed ban was swift. Outrage swept New England. State Rep. Kathi Reinstein, pointing out that Fluff contains no fat or artificial preservatives, moved to make the Fluffernutter the official sandwich of Massachusetts. A "Barrios Fluff Advisory System," based on the terror-alert system, was created. It became the subject of jokes, blogs and national news reports.

"We weren't that concerned," says Quirk, "because we don't push it as a health food. ... But, naturally, we don't care for negative publicity."

Then again, he points out, the publicity turned out to be far, far from negative. "We hear nice things and get nice letters from all over," adds Quirk, but "we heard a lot of nice things on this one." And made quite a few nice sales. The Boston Globe reported that web sales of Fluff "skyrocketed 800% from 10 to 80 cases a day." Quirk couldn't confirm the internet figure, but said that he when he stopped in the shipping secretary's office, "it looked like a warehouse."

"We had our moment in the sun," says Quirk. "We're now hoping it all just goes away." We assume he's talking about the media storm, not the sales.

New York, not-so-rock city
Advertising Week in New York is fast approaching and we all know what that means: Icons will take to the streets while, across town, ad-agency execs will be dragged before a quasi-legal committee to explain why their workplaces are whiter than a loaf of Wonder Bread.

Oh, and it also means ad-agency employees will have yet another chance to strut their musical stuff at the Fluid Battle of the Ad Bands, which will be held Sept. 27 at New York's Supper Club. Deadline to enter is July 14.

Adages thinks it's high time a band from a New York agency steps up. Supposedly the creative capital of North America, and it has yet to produce a winning band at this event. And it'll be easier this year as reigning champ and two-time winner Pants, from McKinney, won't be participating. (David Baldwin, though, will be one of the judges.)

Rocky Mountain high
What do Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Stephen G. Breyer, Nora Ephron, Alan Greenspan and Karl Rove have in common? They were all in Aspen, Colo., last week. And, no, this has nothing to do with the death of Ken Lay, which overshadowed the yearly think-fest and media darling (of course, it helps to have so many journalists speaking), the Aspen Ideas Festival. Once again, Adages was not invited to speak. Apparently this column doesn't quite break into that rare air inhabited by such intellectual heavyweights as Katie Couric and Richard Cohen. But for those of us who didn't make the cut, Adages' favorite magazine, The Atlantic, came through with a blog of the event. James Fallows, James Bennet, Ross Douthat and Clive Crook provided a play-by-play of the to-do at http://blogs.theatlantic.com/aspen/. Douthat and Crook even soldiered through some extremely severe altitude sickness. Go have a look at it, for both the ideas (our favorite: Bill Gates or Warren Buffet running for president on a third-party ticket) and a rare example of what blogging can be in the right hands. Adages spends entirely too much time reading blogs, and it's always nice to read a blog that's smart, written in coherent (and correct) English, and doesn't habitually descend into a flame war of some sort. Now there's an idea.

Pink elephants? Jim Koch sees unicorns
Adages likes beer. This should come as no surprise. So we were delighted to see an interview with Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Co., in the August issue of FHM. Let's just say he's got a colorful way of talking about the craft. "I know what the perfect Sam Adams tastes like, and I'd say we get it only maybe 20% of the time. It's like a mythological beast. Twenty percent of the time we get unicorns and the other 80 we get thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds are fine, but my job is to try to get unicorns every time," says Koch.

And, gladly, FHM is the type of publication to ask the questions that matter-like, "How many beers until you're ripped?" Says Koch: "If I drink three in the first hour and two an hour for a couple of hours, I'm blowing about a 0.12. I keep a Breathalyzer in my briefcase and another one in my car."

We can already hear the angry pens of Madd letter-writers scribbling their letters to the editor.

Send big ideas to kwheaton@crain.com
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