Kellogg revives rooster for Corn Flakes campaign

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Kellogg Co. is rousting the Corn Flakes rooster in an attempt to boost sales for its fourth-largest cereal brand.

After a three-year hiatus, Corn Flakes returns to the airwaves, giving its 42-year-old packaging-icon Cornelius the rooster its his first-ever starring role in a TV spot. The effort aims to buoy the brand's lagging sales, which fell 8.3% to $188 million for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 27, according to Information Resources Inc.

The new campaign, from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, breaking today, introduces an animatronic version of Cornelius as a superpicky inspector who only lets the best corn into Kellogg's flagship cereal. In one 30-second spot, the rooster throws a farmer bearing inferior corn through the glass door of his office and the voice-over says, "For the best flakes, we only accept the best corn."

Another, mocking a drug deal, shows a farmer passing a briefcase of corn to Cornelius in a limousine with tinted windows, and this time the rooster gives it the nod while the voice-over reads, "For the best flakes, we only go after the best corn."

"The rooster really [sends the message] that `the buck stops here,' " said Robert Akers, Burnett exec VP.

The "best corn" theme replaces the brand's previous tagline for Corn Flakes, "Taste it again for the first time," which has been used sparsely in print and TV advertising since 1995.

Cornelius also will star in a new spot for Honey Crunch Corn Flakes breaking today. The spot is Burnett's first Honey Crunch Corn Flake work since winning the brand assignment from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, more than a year ago. It features a woman in a bar disturbed by a male voice calling out, "Honey." After she leaves in disgust, another barfly discovers the culprit is Cornelius. Kellogg is testing in-store displays for Honey Crunch that leverage the advertising by calling out "Honey" to passing consumers.

Kellogg spent a mere $2,300 in media on Corn Flakes and $2.5 million on Honey Crunch Corn Flakes in 1999. That compares with $6.1 million against the base brand and $12.7 million against Honey Crunch in 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Three other Kellogg cereal brands will get new ads as well. In a new campaign for Rice Krispies, moms show how making Rice Krispies Treats with their kids can be a bonding experience. B&w print ads running in issues of mom-targeted magazines show similar bonding scenes with copy lines such as "Because that's the kind of mom you are" and "They remember stuff like this." TV spots will break later in the year.

New advertising for Corn Pops will maintain the 12-year-old "Gotta have my pops" tagline, but will augment it with a new "protect your valuables" theme that humorously shows how a rattlesnake, bear traps or piranhas might help tweens keep people away from their Corn Pops.

Kellogg will also launch a new fully animated spot for Frosted Flakes intended to tell tweens how the cereal's added vitamins and minerals can make them stronger. The adult campaign for Frosted Flakes, launched last year, features groupie grown-ups unabashedly admitting their passion for the cereal. That Burnett campaign has helped drive sales for the brand. Sales were up 14% to $322 million for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 27, according to IRI.

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