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First lady stars with Big Bird and Billy Eichner in ‘eat brighter!’ video

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First lady Michele Obama, Sesame Street’s Big Bird and comedian Billy Eichner of Billy on the Street star in a Funny or Die video released this morning touting the consumption of fruits and vegetables and the Produce Marketing Association’s ‘eat brighter!’ campaign.

PMA President Cathy Burns told The Produce News that the 12-minute video had been viewed more than 16,000 times in the first few hours after its release. In the video, Eichner, who stars in NBC’s "Parks and Recreation" show and on FunnyOrDie.com, acts as a game show host with the first lady, Big Bird and another contestant. He quizzes the group about various fun facts with a Washington, DC, Safeway produce department serving as the set and an ‘eat brighter!’ poster prominently displayed.16534003916 2476febfd1 oFirst lady Michelle Obama participates in a 'Let's Move!' Funny or Die game show taping with Billy Eichner of 'Billy on the Street,' and Big Bird at Safeway in Washington, DC. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon) Following the in-store action, Eichner takes his “Billy on the Street" shtick outdoors and serves as a roving reporter asking people such questions as, “Miss, would your child prefer strawberries with Elmo’s face or strawberries with JK Simmons’ face?”

The video is designed to highlight the ‘eat brighter!’ campaign, which is an effort to increase fruit and vegetable consumption bringing together produce industry products, Sesame Street characters and the Partnership for a Healthier America, which was inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move project.  

Burns said this latest video is designed to reach the millennials, who are young parents with kids in the next generation. Eichner is very popular with that group and has more than 2 million followers of his various social media interactions.

Burns and PMA’s Meg Miller worked with Eichner and the first lady on the execution of the video, though the PMA president said the creative aspect was all Eichner. The first lady, she said, is committed to the effort and was very willing to lend her star power to the video.

“We’re so thrilled to see this unique movement gain support from the industry, and even happier to see their hard work and commitment gain attention from people like the first lady and Billy Eichner,” said Burns. “Our industry has a great responsibility to positively impact eating habits for kids and their families. I firmly believe we’re on that path, making great strides through the creative marketing that the ‘eat brighter!’ initiative brings.”

Burns said the “eat brighter!” movement now has about 50 produce industry companies representing 100 commodities taking part. The campaign allows produce industry companies to use the Sesame Street characters on their packaging and in their marketing campaigns free of charge. The campaign was announced in late 2013 and launched just about a year ago. Burns said it gained momentum in the fall of 2014 and in this first quarter of 2015 many companies are beginning to roll out their participation.

She said PMA is happy about the level of participation and understands it takes time for companies to adopt the program and adjust their marketing efforts. “We are in it for the long term,” she said, noting that the ultimate goal is to change the eating habits of the next generation.

In a PMA press release announcing the release of the video, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Sesame Workshop, said, “At Sesame Street, we’re committed to helping children grow up smarter, stronger, and kinder, and an important part of being stronger is being healthy. We’re proud to be working with PMA and PHA on the ‘eat brighter!’ initiative, and what better way to show kids that eating fruits and vegetables is not only healthy but fun than with Billy Eichner, the first lady and Big Bird!”

PHA CEO Lawrence A. Soler added, “Making fruits and vegetables something kids want to eat and parents want to serve is a goal of PHA’s and also of the ‘eat brighter!’ effort. Collaborations like this help ensure messages about fruits and vegetables are heard by kids and adults alike, and make fruits and veggies more exciting and fun for everyone.” 

Burns said PMA is using this video to attract more produce participants to the “eat brighter!” campaign. She said the association did send an email letter to all of its members today promoting the video and asking them to re-post it through their own social media interactions. She said early adopters of the Sesame Street connection should get a marketing boost as this video gains viewers across the country.