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Brooke Shields & Foxy: the genesis of a promotion

Currently, The Nunes Co., and its Foxy brand of conventional and organic vegetables, is using long-time celebrity Brooke Shields as the face of the brand in both consumer and trade promotions. The campaign launched on July 1 and will run for at least one year in 18 markets, with billboards being the major focus of the

The Nunes connection with the famous actress and model dates back 30 years, but the reconnection was a separate event, hatched by marketing consultant Nick Pasculli, founder and president of TMD Creative, a Salinas, CA, marketing agency.

One day at a meeting with Nunes officials on another project, Pasculli saw a picture of Shields from that earlier promotion when she was 30 years younger. “I began ruminating about the picture and started thinking about how we could reconnect, and wondering if, as a mom, she was into healthy eating and good nutrition.”

The first time The Nunes Co. and Shields hooked up was in the late 1980s when co-founder of the firm, Bob Nunes, thought she would be a perfect spokesperson for the Foxy brand. He believed her striking good looks and wholesome reputation would be a good fit for the company.  Several years ago, Nunes explained that he “had to woo” both Shields and her mom to hire the popular star. The firm launched the campaign and sales took off.

This time around, the effort to get Shields involved many more moving parts, largely because the world is a different place and making a pitch to a celebrity is a complicated matter. Pasculli started the process by researching Shields to determine if she was still a good fit for the message he envisioned. No longer was the idea to capitalize just on her beauty and connect that to the Foxy label.

“We needed to find out if she was into healthy eating and if nutrition was important to her as a mom,” he said.

He and his team did find some references that were on topic. Shields had a blog and did a radio show for a short time in which there were references to healthy eating and cooking with her kids. TMD Creative put together some ideas and created a broad-based strategy for a campaign that could work. The idea was next presented to The Nunes Co., complete with a budget.

“We had done our research and had a good idea what a celebrity endorsement would cost,” Pasculli said. “They loved the idea and thought the timing was right to carry out a campaign on that level.”

While the Nunes/Shields campaign of 30 years ago was ground-breaking with the use of both the celebrity and television advertising, the company pulled back in the mid-1990s and has not been as aggressive in consumer advertising ever since then.

With the approval of the concept by Nunes Co. officials, Pasculli began researching Shields’ current team of handlers and how they should be approached.

“We put together a strategy to pitch her agent,” said Pasculli. “She had a couple of different managers, including a talent agent and a publicist.  Ultimately, we put together a presentation and made the pitch. We got the typical response that they would get back to us.”

And indeed they did.  “Brooke remembered her work with The Nunes Co. and remembered spending time in Yuma with the Nunes family.  She was willing to entertain re-engagement.”

After some negotiations, Shields agreed to a campaign with a more narrow focus than what was first presented. “That was great,” Pasculli said. “When we went in we presented everything possible, including the icing on the cake. What we wanted was the cake and we got that.”

But more work was yet to be done. Shields’ handlers couldn’t quite visualize the final concept. Using Mendy Nunes Amaral (the daughter of Tom Nunes Jr.) as a model, Pasculli’s team engaged in a full-day shoot and created the type of promotional pieces that they envisioned. That did the trick, though Shields wanted to use her own photographer for the shoot.

“That made for an interesting event as we were handling art direction from 3,000 miles away,” Pasculli said. “But it worked. He was a skilled and talented photographer and using the specific criteria we had given him, he shot a few hundred photos, which we narrowed down to four or five that we are using.”

Billboards have been designed and are in place. The photos of Shields featuring various Foxy Brand products will be rotated over the course of the year. Still in the early stages of this campaign, Pasculli said it has been successful and retailers are excited.  

“The feedback has been tremendous,” he noted, adding that Shields’ re-emergence has also generated independent social media posts, which are good for the campaign.

Ultimately, he said analytics will be utilized to determine how popular the campaign is.  “And, of course, at the end of the day, it comes down to sales.”

But Pasculli believes the concept itself is important if it helps lead the produce industry in a new promotional direction. “The industry as a whole has to get out of the mindset of just being commodity-driven,” he said. “Every company needs to differentiate themselves. Me-too-ism doesn’t work.”

He believes that this type of campaign — showing a celebrity consuming fruits and vegetables — can be very effective and is in the realm of what some of the most successful companies in the world are doing. He pointed to the current Nike campaign, which is designed to get consumers to sit up and take notice and connect superstars with that brand.  

“We need to do that,” he said. “We need to get high- profile people consuming our products,” adding that celebrities and athletes are influencers who have an impact. “They drive traffic and we need to drive traffic to the produce aisle.”