Leo Burnett is proving that marketing ideas
really do grow on trees -- actually under one particular tree in
San Francisco, to be exact.
The tree, in the city's Golden Gate Park, began drawing national
media attention a few months ago when a mysterious small door was
discovered at its base. Leo Burnett's Kellogg team caught the
story on the news and immediately made a connection. "Everyone
knows that Keebler elves make cookies in the Hollow Tree," recalled
Mike Doyle, a VP-Creative Director at the agency. "If there was
ever a project that we should be doing something around, it seemed
like this would be the one."
Thus was born the "Tiny Doors Project," in which Kellogg's
Keebler brand commissions artists to build tiny doors at the base
of trees across the country.
This 'Tiny Door' is in Pittsburgh
The project -- which is spearheaded by Leo Burnett and
experiential marketing agency City Eventions – is purposely
low-profile. There isn't any branding on the doors, except for a
hashtag (#tinydoors). Leo Burnett made a TV spot (below), but it
does not show any Keebler cookies and the brand name is only
briefly shown at the end of the ad. Keebler's lead elf, Ernie, does
not appear in the ad, although his voice does.
The campaign is meant to bring "the idea of elfin lore into the
real world," Mr. Doyle said. "Although we would love people to go
out and buy Keebler cookies," that is not the goal of the project,
he said. Rather, it is aimed at selling the Keebler brand "and what
we stand for, which is elfin magic," he added.
The hub for the campaign is a Tumblr page which includes a map
displaying the locations of the doors, as well as some pictures,
like one door at the base of a huge tree in Cincinnati's Eden Park.
About 40 doors have been erected in a dozen cities so far,
including Orlando, Detroit, Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Mr. Doyle said the project targets parks, and organizers get
permission for each door. Also, the doors are nailed to the ground,
not the trees themselves. Project coordinators work with arborists
to ensure the trees aren't harmed, Mr. Doyle said.
This was a lesson learned from the original San Francisco tiny
door, which was removed by city's Recreation and Park Department
because of rules prohibiting fixtures to trees, according to local
media reports. After much speculation – including a story on
ABC's "Good Morning America" --
the San Francisco Chronicle revealed the creators of the original
door as Tony Powell and his son Rio. Mr. Powell, who lives on a
sailboat and works at a company that makes wood sealant for boats
according to the Chronicle, told the newspaper that "I just thought
maybe someone might come along now and then and say, 'Well, cool --
a little door.' That's all."
Leo Burnett approached Mr. Powell early on about being part of
the Keebler project. He politely declined, saying "my kid doesn't
watch TV and my kid doesn't eat cookies," Mr. Doyle recalled. The
agency let him know it was moving forward with the project, Mr.
Doyle said, and "he was fine with it."
E.J. Schultz is the News Editor for Ad Age, overseeing breaking news and daily coverage. He also contributes reporting on the beverage, automotive and sports marketing industries. He is a former reporter for McClatchy newspapers, including the Fresno Bee, where he covered business and state government and politics.