Giant potato attracts Los Angeles media blitz
Updated: Saturday, November 24, 2012 11:10 AM
By SEAN ELLIS
EAGLE, Idaho -- The giant Idaho potato is wrapping up its seven-month journey around the country by basking in a Los Angeles area media blitz, and industry officials are already planning next year's tour.
The $750,000 campaign featuring the world's largest spud has generated hundreds of millions of media impressions, according to representatives of the Idaho Potato Commission, which created the campaign to promote the Idaho potato brand.
National media outlets jumped on the story when the truck made its way through Los Angeles Oct. 15-25, said Sue Kennedy, a public relations supervisor with Evans Hardy+Young, which handled the national tour for the IPC.
When the giant potato, which is being hauled on a truck, parked near the famous 18-foot Fork in the Road in Pasadena, it was covered by major media such as the "Today Show," Los Angeles Times, CNBC and the Weather Channel.
"The media went beyond crazy on this," Kennedy said. "We don't know yet exactly how many media impressions we got, but it's a lot."
The IPC's advertising efforts generated a record 4 billion media impressions last year but the commission expects that number to be easily exceeded this year because of the giant potato tour.
As Kennedy showed video clips of media coverage around the country during the IPC's monthly meeting Oct. 24, two of the IPC's newest board members said they had changed their thinking on the campaign, which wraps up Oct. 31.
Farmer Mike Christensen, one of the IPC's new commissioners, said he "would have thought the idea was dumb to start with, but I'm changing my mind. It obviously was very successful."
"I'm much more comfortable with this than I was a year ago as I'm able to see the positive impressions of the people who see the truck and the media coverage," said Lynn Wilcox, who represents shippers on the nine-member board.
But Wilcox also asked IPC staff to think about ways to ensure next year's tour results in people buying more Idaho potatoes.
"I would challenge this group to figure out how to (translate) that coverage into ... specifically increasing sales of Idaho potatoes," he said.
He also asked if there were ways to reach retailers more effectively because they influence consumers' choices.
Seth Pemsler, vice president of the IPC's retail division, said a lot of retailers have requested the truck stop at their stores next year and if they want the potato there, he added, they will have to include a promotion of the campaign.
There is a direct correlation between advertising and Idaho potato sales, said IPC President and CEO Frank Muir. The commission spends about $8 million of its $14 million annual budget on advertising, publicity and promotions.
"Our mission every day is to try to get people to focus on the 'Grown in Idaho' seal," he said. "The more you tell people what to do, the more likely they are to do it."