your-news image

New Florida citrus ads a hit, but will they sell juice?

Anyone who has seen the new Florida citrus television commercials knows that the campaign is a critical hit. Whether they will drive orange juice sales or not remains to be seen, but the sharp, witty series of TV ads — pitched at modern moms, dads and suburban households — are a crowd pleaser.

But the new campaign was hardly assured of any such status when it was unveiled last summer at the annual

oj
Florida citrus advertising has evolved remarkably over the last few decades from items like this magazine advertisement from the 1950s.
meeting of the Florida Citrus Commission, which retains marketing firms to promote Florida orange juice and approves the work they do.

 

It has been years since Florida citrus had a hit TV campaign. It is possible to discern the age of most people by asking them to complete the phrase, “A day without orange juice is like a day without ... .” If they answer “bacon” or “the Spanish-American War,” they are undoubtedly under 40. If they know the answer is “sunshine,” then they are old enough to remember the industry’s last successful campaign, helmed by singer Anita Bryant in the 1960s and ‘70s.

As Ms. Bryant’s star waned, other less memorable campaigns were launched. The fact that none of them pop immediately to mind is testament to their effectiveness. Even a promotion featuring TV star Tom Selleck of Magnun P.I. fame that began in 2007 failed to keep orange juice consumption from continuing to slide.

To be fair, Florida citrus growers in the past decade have been forced to divert a significant portion of their advertising market to more pressing matters, like combating diseases and pests like citrus canker and the Asian citrus psyllid that is spreading deadly huanglongbing (also known as HLB or citrus greening disease) in groves throughout the state.

On the other hand, the past few Florida citrus television campaigns have not been very successful because, well, they just were not very good. From a critical standpoint, “good” no doubt is in the eye of the beholder. But from a marketing standpoint, there is only one way to define whether a campaign is “good”: Does it enhance the profile of the product it is promoting?

 

For a variety of reasons, the last few Florida citrus efforts have fallen short of that mark.

The Tom Selleck campaign, for instance, was undone by budget cuts as more and more money was necessarily diverted to research. But marketing experts say that the campaign likely would have been a flop even if it had been fully funded because it appealed to an audience and demographic that was already devoted to Florida citrus.

The Florida Citrus Commission knew that a new approach was needed. It accepted bids and reviewed proposals from agencies around the nation before eventual winner BBDO-Atlanta was announced in early 2010.

From there, BBDO began the process of dismantling the Florida citrus audience from the inside out. Numbers were crunched, focus groups were formed, opinions were counted. What BBDO realized was that consumers who were not already loyal OJ fans were not likely to be converted by appeals that made unrealistic promises.

It is just orange juice, after all, not some magic elixir that will change the life of anyone who consumes it. BBDO recognized that and went to work targeting a new generation of consumers who have ample choices at the breakfast table.

“Our objective for this campaign was to make orange juice relevant to the consumer as well as increase consumption,” said Bobby Pearce, chief creative officer for BBDO-Atlanta. “Our goal is to do so in an engaging, entertaining way that will generate interest and keep people talking about it; hopefully these spots will do that.”

They might. Last June, it was a virtual lock that they would not.

When the citrus commission convened last June at the annual Florida Citrus Conference to hear BBDO’s initial pitch, the response was less than overwhelming. As agency executives unveiled storyboards and explained concepts, the commission members sat in silence. A Produce News reporter in attendance wrote in his notes of the morning’s proceedings that the pitch “went over like the proverbial lead balloon.”

No one liked what they saw or heard. Though the concepts were funny, no one in the room saw how they connected to — or could drive sales of — Florida orange juice. 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. Mr. Carrere also expressed concern at that meeting 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.

So back to the drawing board BBDO went. The decision had already been made to avoid celebrities and the high price tag they carry (Mr. Selleck received $90,000 annually for his efforts) and focus on a new generation of consumers. BBDO now had to fine-tune its message in a way that resonated with citrus commission members, focus groups and consumers.

New concepts “went through the process of both consumer focus groups and copy testing, at which point we analyzed the results and proceeded with the campaign that resonated most with our target,” Mr. Pearce explained. “By depicting a typical morning of today’s consumer, we demonstrate how you don’t have to wait for a leisurely weekend breakfast to enjoy orange juice; it fits into any busy lifestyle.”

Scrapping the original concepts pushed back the debut of the annual Florida citrus advertising campaign by three months. By December, the citrus commission had approved three new spots that focused on moms, dads and kids getting ready for busy days. As they sit at the breakfast table, they are joined by a host of uninvited guests chronicling the unexpected obstacles they will encounter as the day unfolds, from flat tires to pop quizzes to traffic jams. The spots then position the nutrition and health benefits of Florida orange juice as a buffer against the stresses of daily life.

Even better, the commercials, which began airing during the National Football League playoff season in January, are actually funny.

Again, it is far too soon to know how much impact the new campaign will have on orange juice sales, which continue to slide. The entire beverage category has been in decline in recessionary times; consumers drank 50 million to 70 million gallons less orange juice in 2009-10 than the season before. More than 90 percent of Florida’s orange crop is utilized for juice.

The late start does not help matters; the TV spots did not begin to run until the Florida citrus season was two months underway.

Budgetary matters are another concern. Florida growers are still fighting HLB and other problems, and more money may yet have to be diverted from the marketing budget for research. A decision was made to avoid costly network advertising and to focus on cable outlets like ESPN and Lifetime.

The new spots position Florida citrus’ health and wellness benefits with an “emotional connection” that does not alienate the industry’s core demographic of consumers age 35 and up, Mr. Pearce said.

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.”

Added Mr. Pearce, “The creative process is an organic one in which our teams start with the client’s objective and the campaign strategy, and work to find an engaging and entertaining way to deliver the message to our consumer. We wanted a concept that encouraged everyday consumption of orange juice and helped people realize the essential role it can play in preparing you for your day.”