Brandtique: Jiffy Pop

There may be as many questions about the dynamics of product placement as what will happen in the 2008 New Hampshire primary. Where does the tactic fit in a media plan? What types of products should be used? Do they work best in the "background" or integrated into a storyline? What's the value? Is it given away as "added value"? Will Congress shut the whole practice down?

If the jury's still deliberating, give it this: It works well when resembling a museum tour--a product with an air of extinction is thrust onto the front burner. If reality Joes guzzling Aquafina, hot-shot detectives rushing to a crime scene in a Ford Super Duty or "Friday Night Light"-ers stopping by an Outback don't stand out from the proverbial clutter, how about a character biting into a Manwich or releasing an audible "aaah" after a Barbasol shave?

That'll prompt a furrowed brow or a smirk--but likely some recall, too. In that vein, it was perhaps coincidental but certainly beneficial for ConAgra when Jiffy Pop appeared in two popular programs recently: Fox's "Family Guy" and CBS' "Cold Case" (two of the top product placements of the week, according to iTVX).



Under the heading "Whatever happened to Jiffy Pop?," a blogger wrote three years ago that it's "nothing more than a marginalized curiosity"--but "an incredibly under-leveraged brand." Maybe ConAgra is looking for a way to give the old aluminum pan that balloons into a popcorn atrium a pop. It could be a prelude to a silver anniversary campaign, as it turns 50 next year.

"This is a brand ripe for re-discovery," wrote the blogger purporting to be a brand expert.

The two product placements are aimed at reinforcing perhaps the brand's strongest attributes: fun and memories. ConAgra says "the butter flavor was made even better in 2002," but it's hard to believe that trumps its Microwave-era successors.

Instead, the fun is the anticipation of watching the pan inflate into a ready-to-eat delight. And, as the rather insightful blogger points out, it's "shared experience which very few products could match."

"Family Guy" highlights the amusement, "Cold Case" peddled nostalgia. In the Fox animated hit, year-old Stewie Griffin teaches Cleveland to make the J-Pop. As it swells on the stove, he's ecstatic, overjoyed, enraptured ... On "Cold Case," before the drama's tragedies and difficulties, a family revels in the halcyon days and concludes it needs some popcorn, with Jiffy Pop the result.

Both shows offer the brand in action, expanding on the stove, enhancing ConAgra's contention "it's as much fun to make as it is to eat." "Cold Case" adds several close-ups of the packaging to drive home the product.

With those approaches and the sheer surprise of encountering a forgotten brand, both placements yield more than a kernel of awareness for a viewer.

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