Jolly Green Giant’s Veggies Pledge: Fail?

At first, I was delighted when I read about the upcoming visit of an augmented reality Jolly Green giant to Grand Central Terminal. He’ll be there on Tuesday afternoon week to high five or fist-bump kids who take a pledge to “eat one more vegetable per day for 30 days.”

The Green Giant event will feature the host of the Biggest Loser and a child nutritionist offering tips to parents. There’s a social media campaign, too. To gain traction at the live event, I guess they’re going to hire kids as shills, or sponsor a field trip for kids to Grand Central because it’s been my observation that Grand Central Terminal during the middle of the day during a working week is not typically filled with children. Rather, it’s crowded with  grown-ups: tourists, business people, shoppers, and other folks headed to various appointments.

That location for the kick-off is confusing me a marketer. But maybe I’m just quibbling. Maybe Grand Central was the only central location available. For heavens sake, a sheep meadow sprouted in Bryant Park last week, complete with real sheep and a wool-filled fountain.  Maybe it’s a school holiday that I’ve forgotten about. Maybe it doesn’t matter because, hey, it’s a press happening as much as a consumer one. But teaching kids that eating healthy food is really important. According to the Centers for Disease Control more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

The promotion has terrific digital legs. There’s a Facebook page for the pledge-taking kids who do not happen to be in Grand Central Terminal. The page offers downloadable charts, sign-ups for text messages from the Giant himself and other bric-a-brac that parents can use to cajole a kid to eat his spinach, string beans and corn. I’m hoping that the pledge app takes over the Green Giant home page on Tuesday, for added oomph.

I’m not quibbling with an augmented reality Jolly Green Giant “Ho-Ho-Ho’ing” either. That sounds pretty cool in a goofy, kitschy, iconic brand kind of way. And what could be wrong with pledging to eat one more vegetable a day? (Though why “one more,” when it’s likely that many kids eat no vegetables at all?)

As PR people we always want to start a campaign with a bang, to create something with which Hoda Kotbe and Kathy Lee Gifford might enjoy interacting. We want to be in the center of things. (Did I mention those sheep in Bryant Park? They’re promoting Prince Charles’ Wool).

We also want to connect with our customers. Grand Central is a classic locale for large-scale press events. It guarantees that the AR Jolly Green Giant will definitely be seen and, I guess, heard somehow. Maybe the parents who rush through Grand Central without their children will feel nostalgic and fist-bump with the big green guy in their stead. But even with the Instagram photos and Facebook posts, their children will miss the moment, I fear.

I wish the marketers could have secured, say, the Central Park Zoo. Or guerilla-style, set-up the AR Jolly Green Giant near the Museum of Natural History. Even Times Square attracts its share of children.

We need to reach these kids and parents, in the right time, in the right place to make the right impact. Not just to sell more frozen baby peas with pearl onions, as delicious as they are, because Green Giant has the opportunity to demonstrate that it can be part of a solution for a real problem in this country.


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