Healthy Choice Taps Improv, Ivanka For Launch

Healthy ChoiceConAgra Foods' Healthy Choice brand is going all-out on the interactive entertainment, celeb and media exposure fronts for the integrated marketing campaign behind its launch of Fresh Mixers lunch meals. The campaign includes a professional improvisation troupe performing online, TV commercials from a noted film director, a product placement on "Ugly Betty" and an Ivanka Trump blog.

Fresh Mixers, now in stores, are shelf-stable (storable in office drawers) meals made from premium ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, wine reductions, fire-roasted vegetables and Ultragrain-flour pasta. According to ConAgra, the technology behind the meals enables the starch ingredients and sauces to be separated during storage and preparation to preserve the "locked-in" flavor and texture of both, producing a fresh taste upon preparation. Harried office workers need about five minutes to microwave the pasta or rice, then add the sauce and meat.

Members of an unidentified "professional comedy improvisation cast" will be featured as part of an innovative, interactive online element, dubbed "The Working Lunch." The improv pros will join actors (who are also featured in the campaign's TV commercials) in skits and to improvise in real time in response to sketch themes and directions provided by office workers who have logged on during lunch hour to join in the fun. The tagline for the Working Lunch microsite/online events, which start at noon on Nov. 12, is: "Finally--the office meeting you control."

Furthermore, the series of five television commercials, featuring a cast of office-worker characters in humorous takes on typical workplace scenarios (which, of course, involve the use/benefits of Fresh Mixers), have been directed by Nicholas Stoller, who directed the comedy film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

In addition, on Tuesday, Healthy Choice staged two simultaneous "Lunch Trade" events in Chicago's financial district and midtown Manhattan inviting office workers to break free from their "boring lunch routines" and sample Fresh Mixers. The New York sampling event was held outside the Grace Building--in close proximity to the offices of The Wall Street Journal and Hearst Corp., among other corporate hives--and was pre-promoted by Ivanka Trump.

Prior to the sampling events, Trump (whose executive roles in dad Donald's enterprises apparently keep her hopping) posted daily praise of the "convenient, fresh-tasting and easy to store in my desk drawer" benefits of Fresh Mixers and replied to comments/queries on a dedicated blog (www.alunchtrade.com). PR efforts led to traffic-driving articles mentioning the blog in Advertising Age and The New York Times, among other outlets. The events drew at least 10,000 office-worker samplers, according to ConAgra brand director Paula Ford.

Healthy Choice also is not scrimping on the media placement bucks for the campaign. The television commercials, which began airing Oct. 6, will run "fairly continuously" through the next six to eight months on both cable and top primetime network shows, including "Biggest Loser," "Dancing With the Stars" and "Ugly Betty," Ford told Marketing Daily. Also, last week, a product placement had one of Ugly Betty's characters "interacting" with Fresh Mixers.

The Fresh Mixers line is designed to be a healthy, tasty and low-cost ($3.49) alternative to leftovers and takeout for office workers who, much research has shown, are increasingly brown-bagging it to save both time and money--particularly in the current economy. The meals' technology is the same used in Healthy Choice Café Steamers, a launch that was the best-selling new food/beverage product in this year's first half, according to Information Resources Inc.

As for the campaign, ConAgra's take was that it was "very important to get trials out the door, but also to get consumers engaged with the product and coming back to it," says Ford--hence the interactive online lunchtime component and series of episodic TV commercials.

In-store, ConAgra is also going beyond the standard shelf-talkers and displays, to invest in eye-catching, "breakthrough" display units, Ford reports.

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