Krispies Treats tries quirkiness in print, TV ads

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A strange man uses a Rice Krispies Treats Square to hold onto a subway strap, while another one uses some treats to create a lifesize floating woman. Such unexpected uses for the sticky snack bars are showcased in non-traditional advertising from Kellogg Co.

The new campaign from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, broke last month with the subway spot "Commute" and will be extended with additional TV and print beginning this month. The ads are part of a shift in strategy for Rice Krispies Treats Squares, formerly targeted to moms and now targeted to older teens. The effort is also part of a continuing shift in Kellogg's overall advertising to reach out to consumers with bolder, standout creative.


"The first thing everybody says about this campaign is, `This doesn't look like Kellogg's advertising,' " said Jonathan Hoffman, exec VP-executive creative director at Burnett. "But, to Kellogg's credit, they are understanding what it takes to talk to their target in a way that's motivating and compelling," he said.

And a quirky approach seems to be what it takes these days to stand out with jaded teens, as edgy new campaigns and guerrilla marketing tactics are increasingly commonplace among teen-targeted marketers from Nabisco to PepsiCo.

The insight behind the new Rice Krispies Treats Squares came from an understanding that "if you want to talk to teens, the last thing you want to do is tell them [the product's] good or show them what to do with it," Mr. Hoffman said. Instead, the new campaign humorously offers possible alternative uses for the gooey snacks through a series of five print ads and three TV spots.

Print ads show the Treats in the form of press-on nails, strapless Japanese sandals, a spare-key holder and a floating drink-holder; but all stress, through the tagline, that they are "Best when eaten."


To create a buzz among teens, TV spots feature two endings, one shown on broadcast networks and one shown only on MTV. In "Commute," for example, both versions show a frustrated commuter using a Treat to stick his hand to the strap handle and prevent himself from falling when the subway train comes to a stop. He falls anyway and his arm stays attached to the strap with the Treat. The broadcast ending shows the man putting the Treat into his mouth with his presumably restored hand, while the MTV version shows him with a hook for a hand.

Likewise, "Floating Friend," which shows a lonely man creating a female pool companion out of Treats, only to have her eaten by his dog when he goes inside to make drinks, features one ending where the man eats a Treat, and another in which the dog eats the Treat. All the versions of the commercials end with a voice-over, "Best when eaten."


Unexpected tactics like the varying endings are essential to Kellogg's new efforts to make the Treats relevant to teens. Those efforts will also include an Internet presence on popular teen sites, such as, and guerrilla efforts including conducting Rice Krispies Treats sculpting contests on college campuses.

Sales for Rice Krispies Treats Squares grew 3.2% to $138 million for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 27, according to Information Resources Inc. Kellogg still plans to reach out to moms with ads in May magazines, encouraging them to use Rice Krispies cereal to make Treats with their kids the traditional way (AA, April 3). The ads from Burnett carry the tag "Because that's the kind of mom you are."

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