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Cloudy with a Chance of Cross-media

If you have kids – or a significant other who simply refuses to grow up – you end up seeing some pretty weird stuff from time to time. Take foodimals, for example – the cute-but-creepy food-based creatures that populated last fall’s movie hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. (Long story, watch the film.)

  • packaging
  • QR codes
  • social media
  • online game
  • print

While there are always a bevy of cross-media opportunities with children’s entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation wanted its food-themed film to be socially responsible as well as entertaining. Since the company already had an established relationship with hunger-relief organization Feeding America, and many of the movie’s characters were made of vegetables and fruits, it seemed like a natural to tie together healthy eating and the fight against hunger.

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Sewing the Seeds of Cooperation
That’s where Soquel, Calif.’s McDill Associates came in. Having worked with produce companies for many years, the marketing and design firm brought together several leading produce brands – including Grimmway Farms’ Cal-Organic, DUDA Farm Fresh Foods’ DANDY, and California Giant Berry Farms – to bring the idea to life. Work began on the promotion in January 2013.

To get produce companies on board, McDill Associates explained that more than 9 in 10 consumers look for companies that support social or environmental issues, says McDill Associates President and Creative Director Melissa McDill. And “we know that giving moms a reason to encourage their kids to eat healthy is also a very important message.”

Next came work on promotional packaging; Web sites; social media content; print advertising; and designs for food trucks, food bank events, and public service announcements.

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One Effort, Two Messages
The biggest challenge? Tying in a marketing effort for a cause with one for a movie, says McDill. “The movie is fun and playful but the message behind the promotion was quite serious.”

To combine the two, the company coupled images of the lighthearted foodimals with messaging that clearly laid out the challenge. The overarching headline – “Helping to Solve Hunger” – and the theme each partner used – “Join Us to Help Solve Hunger” – made the case nicely. Each branded element also featured the logos of the movie and Feeding America front and center. Since a food-animal jungle (!) played a role in the movie, jungle images also peppered the campaign.

“It wasn’t hard to find great visuals because of the movie’s wonderful animation,” says McDill. Sony’s graphics team even created a couple of additional foodimals for the promotion so that each produce partner would have its own character. For example, “their animation team was able to create a celery character, which they didn’t already have in the movie,” she says.

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Where the Sticker Meets the Fruit
Naturally there were challenges involved with adapting the promotion’s themes to the produce partners’ product packaging. For example, one package might only have a 3-x-3” label, posing space limitations, while other packages might have to accommodate unique shapes, such as a circular head of lettuce or a long bag of celery.

To get people to interact with the campaign, each produce package included a QR code that sent consumers online to a special partner-specific promotional landing page. This way the movie “got a lot of pre-exposure in the produce department, which is a relatively promotion-free department,” she says. In other words, prime real estate.

Those special Web pages featured foodimals and details related to the promotion, as well as special content geared to that particular partner. For example, a partner’s landing page might compel consumers to try special recipes with their produce, while also informing them about how they can win movie-related prizes. Each page linked to the Web sites of Sony and Feeding America, which added even more continuity to the promotion.  Sony developed a customized Web site with games, characters, and ways to donate to Feeding America. 

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Bringing it all Together
In addition to creating the packaging and landing pages, McDill Associates designed the branding that covered a food truck promoting the effort, and that of five semi-trailer trucks that delivered produce to food banks across the country. They also created props for various events such as a branded popcorn container used to give out fresh berries, carrots and celery at press junkets.

Twitter parties and other social media events gave the promotion additional exposure, as did a public service announcement shown in movie theaters prior to Cloudy’s launch, as well as a book that Sony produced with Scholastic.

Because there were so many different parties involved, McDill Associates found itself juggling a multitude of deadlines: The strawberry packaging needed to be completed by the beginning of February, while Sony needed many event props by the beginning of August, and on and on.

To keep everything running smoothly – and on time the design company served as the conduit for all information between the brands. That way, each partner only had to work with one firm. “We had a real finger on the pulse with everyone,” says McDill.

Measuring Results
Sony and Feeding America were happy with the results, she says. Additionally:

  • Produce partners saw (on average) nearly 400 news articles mentioning their involvement
  • Up to 25% more traffic to their Web sites
  • Up to a 26% increase in Facebook followers
  • Nearly 6 million impressions via social media.
  • One partner even saw a sales increase of 12% related to the promotion itself.

As impressive as those numbers sound, McDill is most proud of the thousands of pounds of produce delivered to food banks around the country. “It was a real worthy cause,” she says. “Very much worth the effort.”

Movie Artwork TM & © 2013 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

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Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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