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New ad campaign looks to recapture Florida citrus heyday

by Chip Carter | June 15, 2010
BONITA SPRINGS, FL -- Philosophers have long pondered, "If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?" What Florida citrus growers want to know is, "If an advertising campaign is created and executed, but no one sees it, does it have an impact?"

In late 2007, the Florida Citrus Commission announced that TV star Tom Selleck of "Magnum, P.I." fame had agreed to lend his voice to the industry's advertising campaign, with the theme, "Florida orange juice -- healthy, pure and simple."

But in 2008, the Florida citrus industry, facing declining revenues and increasing disease pressures, began to chip away at its marketing budget to fund research into citrus canker and huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease.

By 2009, the budget for purchasing television advertising had been slashed by half, to $1.6 million. The industry argued among itself, questioning the need and effectiveness of promotions.

Ultimately, Mr. Selleck's golden tones failed to sway consumers. Orange juice consumption has declined steadily, slipping another 8 percent last year. Some in the industry think that the drop was directly related to a lack of advertising. Others suggest that Mr. Selleck's image appealed primarily to more mature consumers who are already orange juice converts, not to the younger demographic the industry covets.

The point is now officially moot. The Florida Citrus Commission got a sneak peek at a new advertising campaign that has been in the works for a year at the 2010 Florida citrus industry annual conference, held June 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point resort, here.

For the past five years, The Richards Group, an independent agency in Dallas, had managed the Florida citrus industry's multi-million-dollar advertising account. When the commission let it be known that the contract was up for grabs, 15 agencies pitched campaigns before eventual winner BBDO Atlanta emerged.

"We believe that BBDO is poised to help the Florida citrus industry motivate consumer behavior in an era of rapid change," said Ken Keck, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "We look forward to the insight and expertise that BBDO will bring to our extended marketing team."

BBDO Atlanta rolled out its top brass for the unveiling of the new campaign. The pitch was presented in storyboard form, like a comic book. After focus- group testing over the summer and final approval by the commission, the plan is to film nine new television commercials in August that will begin airing in late September.

The new campaign avoids celebrities -- and the high price tag they carry (Mr. Selleck received $90,000 annually for his efforts) -- and focuses on a new generation of consumers.

The new target demographic comprises 45 percent of the population and focuses on younger consumers, the area of most growth opportunity for the industry.

The pitch positions the health and wellness benefits of Florida citrus with an "emotional connection" that does not alienate the industry's core demographic of consumers age 35 and up, BBDO Atlanta Chief Creative Officer Bobby Pearce told the commission.

BBDO's market research showed that "people claim to drink more orange juice than they actually do -- a lot more," said Jeff Upshaw, BBDO Atlanta's executive vice president and chief strategy officer. "So their heads are already in the game."

The spots feature individuals and families in everyday settings like kitchens, classrooms and offices. The campaign message: The natural energy of orange juice gives you a fresh start every morning.

Some of the spots feature individuals who are not quite up to speed at the beginning of the day. Conversation around them sounds "like Charlie Brown's parents," Mr. Pearce said. But once they have that first swig of Florida orange juice, the world comes into focus and the day can officially begin.

Other spots feature show-business settings, where individuals are shown backstage preparing for a performance only to emerge into the real world after a glass of orange juice helps them get ready for the day. "All the world's a stage, and we all have to perform," said Mr. Pearce.

Michael Carrere, a member of the commission's board of directors and executive vice president of Lykes Bros. Inc. in Tampa, FL, worried that the campaign positioned orange juice against coffee as a morning engine-starter.

"They're complementary," said Mr. Upshaw, adding that extensive research helped BBDO "adjust the dials" on targeted demographic segments and "make sure we're relevant to them."

Mr. Carrere also expressed concern that the emotional connection was vague. "I didn't get it," he said.

Board member Mike Haycock, vice president of operations for Tropicana Products in Bradenton, FL, echoed those concerns. "I had the same reaction - - not enough emotional pull," he said.

Mr. Pearce explained that key emotional components of the campaign involve "strategic positioning," and that initial research shows that consumers will respond to the new spots once they move beyond the storyboard format.