Courtesy Idaho Potato Commission
BOISE — The Idaho Potato Commission’s Big Idaho Potato Truck continues to draw major attention as it tours the nation.
The truck, which hauls a 12,000-pound potato, debuted in 2012 and will start its seventh national tour later this year.
National Geographic has published a children’s book about the potato truck being pulled on a barge along the Hudson River in front of the Statue of Liberty in 2016, said Sue Kennedy, director of public relations for Evans, Hardy & Young, which handles the IPC’s potato truck promotion.
The giant potato will also play a major role in an upcoming “Man vs. Food” TV show, Kennedy said. While in Boise recently, the show’s producers filmed the truck for two hours.
“The potato part of this (show) is going to be huge,” Kennedy told IPC board members during their regular December meeting.
Lynn Wilcox, who represents shippers on the IPC board, said he used to be surprised by the large amount of media coverage the truck generated but not any more.
“Over the last year, I have become convinced that truck has a long way to go before it wears out,” he said. “It’s becoming more popular. The story continues to build.”
The commission spends about $750,000 a year on the promotion.
Wilcox said when he joined the board, he was “about 85 percent against” the promotion.
But as he has seen the impact the truck is having, “I’ve probably become the biggest advocate of it. I think it’s the most clever, long-term piece of advertising we’ve ever (done). It has just continued to gain momentum.”
Randy Hardy, an Oakley farmer who represents growers on the board, said, “The amount of emails we get from people who see the truck on the road is incredible. It was a brilliant idea. It’s been a tremendous ride.”
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said it initially wasn’t an easy sell getting commissioners to agree to create the potato truck but the promotion has proven itself with so much publicity it’s hard to put a value on it.
The truck has traveled 150,000 miles in 48 states and IPC officials receive a constant stream of requests to have the giant potato appear in major events, he said.
“Everywhere we go, we get local media coverage and there’s no way to measure (that),” Muir said. And, “How do you measure everybody on a parade route who is taking selfies and photos?”
He said he knew the promotion would be big but admitted it has exceeded his expectations.
“It’s still the biggest and most successful PR event in the history of the Idaho Potato Commission,” Muir said. “Did I think it would be big? Yes. Did I think it would end up on a barge in New York harbor? No.”