A 30-second spot, shot in New York last week and airing on network TV starting in May, showcases Ben & Jerry's new Smooth, No Chunks line. It features Mr. Lee and seven other social activists.
"We were looking for the right match in terms of someone who was multitalented and visionary, someone who understood that you can make a great product, create progressive social momentum and have fun doing it," Ben Cohen, company chairman and co-founder, said of Mr. Lee.
The spot uses a different personalityfor each of the eight flavors in the Smooth, No Chunks line, now rolling out. Activists Carlos Santana, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bobby Seale, Daniel Berrigan, Dolores Huerta, Pete Seeger, Michelle Shocked and Mr. Lee are not identified in the spot, which simply shows them enjoying ice cream in a cafe setting.
"Our voice-over talks of cultural flavor diversity and implies that if chocolate, vanilla and coffee ice cream can coexist in a bowl, we can all get along," said Holly Alves, marketing director. "We wanted a diverse group of people in the commercial."
The company's philosophy is also illustrated by the 7.5% of pretax earnings it donates to non-profit and charitable groups as well as its other cause-related marketing efforts.
Additional TV spots may be created as the estimated $5 million cam paign evolves. Ben & Jerry's has done some 10-second spot TV and trade print advertising in the past, but it's mostly known for slightly offbeat event promotions, such as a traveling circus or Woodstock-like festivals.
"Our first major ad campaign couldn't be typical," Ms. Alves said.
The company decided to mount a major campaign now to make a splash for the new line, which is a departure from the marketer's famed chunky products.
Mr. Lee was chosen to direct after Ben & Jerry's reviewed 30 different reels from a variety of producers, directors and ad agencies.
One agency, Holstein, Hereford, Guernsey & Shapiro, New York, attracted attention thanks to its name, but the ice cream marketer decided just to hire a director. All creative is handled in-house.
Those appearing in the spot, also shot by still cameras for a print and outdoor campaign, received a lifetime supply of Ben & Jerry's ice cream as payment.
Print ads will run in national consumer magazines and on outdoor boards in 10 major cities. Print buys are via Star Media, Boston; TV buys are through Burrell Communications, Chicago.
Ben & Jerry's is No. 2 in the superpremium segment of the $2.3 billion ice cream market. Information Resources Inc. says the company's sales grew 2.8% to $117.2 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 30. Grand Metropolitan's Haagen-Dazs Ice Co. is No. 1, up 7.8% to $152.1 million.