Athenos Unleashes 'Cooking With Yiayia' Campaign

Cooking-w-Yiayia-BJulia Child she isn’t, but Yiayia brings her own, trademark irascible appeal to a new series of cooking videos that are the core element in a new Athenos digital and print campaign launching on May 20.

In the “Cooking with Yiayia” videos, the Greek grandma acts as a curmudgeonly foil as “Chef Jessica” prepares a variety of recipes employing Athenos feta cheese.

The campaign is the latest creative evolution for Yiayia, who has amassed quite a fan base -- and helped drive substantial sales lifts for the brand’s hummus and feta products -- since Athenos and agency Droga5 unleashed her on the world in early 2011. 

It also marks a departure from the Kraft Foods brand’s previous television-plus-digital media strategy: This campaign’s videos will not air on TV, but instead live primarily on the newly redesigned Athenos.com site (although they will also be viewable on Athenos’s YouTube channel -- where Yiayia’s earlier videos/TV spots have generated a whopping 6.6 million views to date). 

Reason: The brand’s core female consumer audience target indexes high for viewing digital content, compared to television-watching, according to Athenos brand manager Anne Field.

This time, the creative mission is conveying the diverse uses of Athenos feta. “People associate using feta so strongly with Greek salad. That’s a great use, but we wanted to drive home feta’s diversity -- how it can enhance a wide variety of recipes and dishes,” says Field.

Each of four 30-second videos shows “Chef Jessica” (an actress chosen for her ability to play against the Yiayia character) demonstrating how Athenos feta adds flavor to dishes such as watermelon salad, Greek pizza, an omelet and Mediterranean turkey sliders -- and managing to maintain her upbeat, competent demeanor despite the decidedly distracting behavior of her “helper,” Yiayia. 

In one spot, Yiayia (famed for disapproving of nearly everything except Athenos) disdains a carton of milk in favor of milking a goat right on the counter, scolding “Jessica”: “Stupid, milk come from teat, not from box.” In another, Yiayia mistakes the video’s male voiceover for God, beseeching: “God, talk to me…God, I’m ready -- take me now!” Other variations have Yiayia turning off an oven timer by smashing the oven’s control screen with a rock, and pummeling the life out of a food processor with a broom (“Devil machine!”).

Each of these videos starts with the message “More Ways to Feta, With Chef Jessica,” and ends with a voiceover message: “There are more ways to feta, and they’re all approved by Yiayia.” In a rare, smiling moment, Yiayia is in each case shown enjoying the dish that has just been prepared. 

The 30-second videos are complemented with a series of 15-second videos that focus on the moment that Athenos feta is being added to each of the recipes. Yiayia caps each of these with one of her “Yiayia-isms” -- noting, for instance, that the watermelon salad is a “great cold dish…for people who are going to burn in hell.”

To drive consumers to the revamped brand site that features the videos -- and a ramped-up emphasis on providing a diverse selection of recipes featuring Athenos’s feta -- the brand is running digital ad spots on E!, Glamour.com, MSN, ShareThis, Tap Joy, Yahoo and YouTube between May 20 and Labor Day.

Print ads are running during the same period in issues of magazines including Entertainment Weekly, Food Network Magazine, InStyle, In Touch Weekly, People, Real Simple, Shape, US Weekly and Women’s Health.

On the social front, Facebook (the brand’s Facebook page currently shows more than 207,000 “likes”) is the main vehicle being used to drive traffic to the brand site and viewership of the videos. 

While Athenos will also do some campaign-related tweeting (its Twitter account currently shows nearly 9,000 followers), Field says it has found over time that Twitter users are most responsive to tweets featuring “Yiayia-isms” (e.g., “Jogging is for people with too much time,” and “Avocado and feta go together perfectly -- like a virgin and a nice farmer’s boy”).

The campaign will also employ in-store components designed to drive trial, such as merchandising promotions in the produce section, including a recipe/coupon booklet.

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