Brace yourself adland: The Jolly Green Giant and Cheerios Kid
are on the comeback trail.
General Mills is
resurrecting the classic characters in two new ad campaigns
debuting Monday that will make a nostalgic appeal to convince
consumers of the health benefits of the iconic cereal and vegetable
The Giant, who debuted in 1928, will return to take a prominent
role in a TV ad for the first time in some eight years via a
campaign that marks the beginning of a revival for the big fella.
In recent years, the giant had been relegated to low-profile
appearances, appearing only as a shadow in some spots. Stuck in a
standing position for decades, he will transition from a protector
of the land to a kind-friendly "wingman" for parents to help make
healthy eating fun, said Yumi Clevenger-Lee, marketing manager for
the Giant brand. On Facebook and at an augmented-reality event in
New York City in October, he will ask kids to take "One Giant
Pledge" to eat one more vegetable a day. "We're bringing the jolly
back to the Green Giant and helping him get his mojo back," she
While less known, the animated Cheerios Kid was famous in his
day, appearing in TV ads in the 1950s and 1960s, encouraging
kids to "connect the 'Big G to the Little O' to get the 'Go' power
of Cheerios." In the new campaign he will speak to nostalgic Baby
Boomers in an online video in which he gives a scientific
explanation to longtime sidekick Sue about how eating Cheerios can
"help naturally remove some cholesterol from the body." The spot
(below) will initially run on YouTube, Facebook and WebMD.
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"He was a very powerful character in his day," said Meredith
Tutterow, associate marketing director for Cheerios. "So we thought
wouldn't it be fun to get the Cheerios Kid to help educate these
friends of his from 30 years ago, now all grown up, and help teach
them about how Cheerios can help lower cholesterol."
General Mills made the Giant TV ad in-house, while Story
Worldwide is handling digital and PR is by Olson. The Cheerios
video was handled by Pat-Man Studios. The creative agency for both
brands is Saatchi & Saatchi.
Both campaigns are an example of how iconic brands -- from
Starkists' Charlie the Tuna to Alka-Seltzer's baby-faced Speedy --
are bringing back old characters in new ways, often using digital
media create rich storylines not possible in the past.
The Green Giant was created in the 1920s by the Minnesota Valley
Canning Co. and was named after a "variety of particularly large
peas," according to the brand's web site. Originally hunched over
and frowning, he evolved over the years into a greener, happier
giant. One of his caretakers was Leo Burnett, who had the brand as
one of his first clients when he opened the agency that bears his
name in 1935. Minnesota Valley renamed itself Green Giant Co. in
1950, and was sold to Pillsbury in 1979. In 1999, Ad Age ranked the
Giant as the No. 3 ad icon of the 20th Century, trailing only
the Marlboro Man and Ronald McDonald.
But General Mills, which acquired Pillsbury in 2001, has
"underleveraged him over the years," Ms. Clevenger-Lee said. On
packaging, the giant shrank and in one recent TV ad, he appears
only as a shadow formed over a farm field, as a ghostlike
"Ho,ho,ho," closes the spot. Ms. Clevenger-Lee is on a mission to
bring him out of the Valley and make him a star again, calling it
"every marketer's dream to have such a powerful icon."
In the new TV spot, his green, smiling face sings the song at
the end of an ad showing children taking the veggie pledge and
steers viewers to a newly revamped Facebook page where they can interact
with him, while taking the pledge. Fans can sign up to get
personalized text messages from the Giant, or download "Ho, ho, ho"
ringtones. On October 2 at Grand Central Terminal, the brand will
use augmented reality to let children with a life-sized version of
the icon displayed on a giant screen. And this is just the start:
Saatchi is working on a broader campaign, called "Unleash Your
Inner Giant," that will continue to evolve the character.
The Cheerios Kid's return comes as the yellow-boxed brand seeks
to renew its emotional connection with consumers. The brand's main
campaign, which debuted this summer on TV, revives the 'One and
Only Cheerios' jingle that was rewritten and sung by Bess Rogers,
whose version was picked from more than 80 entries.
The song is meant to recapture the notion that "Cheerios are
part of so many special moments," said Ms. Tutterow, noting that
she, like many mothers, fed her children the cereal when they were
babies. "There's something very precious for moms about that first
The Cheerios' Kid spot sticks to a more functional message of
cholesterol health. While the brand has been pushing that message
for a while, the spot seeks to explain the science behind it
because consumers "didn't really know how it worked," Ms. Tutterow
In 2009, General Mills got into some trouble with the Food and
Drug Administration for a similar health claim in which it said the
cereal could "lower cholesterol 4% in six weeks." The FDA, in a
controversial ruling, warned that the claim was incorrectly
promoting the cereal as a drug. The brand quietly removed the
claim, replacing it with the more vague "can help lower
cholesterol." A footnote states that 3 grams of soluble fiber from
whole-grain-oat foods "like Cheerios" in a diet low in saturated
fat and cholesterol "may reduce the risk of heart disease."
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.