The 13-episode series on the new Discovery network chronicles the town's ambitious rebuilding process. The people of Greensburg are looking to become a model of an environmentally friendly community.
As with any good documentary type, multiple story lines are followed. There's a standoff between the mayor and a hired city planner. A woman is ripped off by a contractor as she builds her dream home. High school students begin to take pride in their community, and one who says he had hoped to flee the town as fast as possible now thinks he might settle there.
Then, there's the plight of the town's city manager Steve Hewitt, who becomes sort of a post-9/11 Rudy Giuliani on the Kansas plains. It's all about realpolitik for Hewitt. He's determined to get things done, and bureaucracy or lack of funds aren't going to stop him. At times, he seems to take the attitude that if you build it, the money will come.
Episode six (July 27) zeroes in on his goal to spur economic development in the heart of the still-vacant downtown through what he calls a "business incubator." It would house 10 local businesses that, as he sees it, would start a snowballing effect to attract more companies to set up shop.
He's able to secure a grant for part of the funding from the government, but is still $700,000 short. Enter Frito-Lay. The company decides to donate $1 million to the cause, hoping to promote its SunChips brand in the process (one of the top product placements of the week, according to measurement firm iTVX).
The drama is cleverly set up--again, the series is documentary-style, not necessarily documentary--when at a town event, Hewitt receives a check to fully fund the incubator. But he isn't told who it's from.
In an ensuing scene, Gannon Jones, vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay, shows up at his office to announce that his company is the source.
"Heard you've had a little bit of a funding gap with your business incubator," Jones says. "Doing things right and doing things the green way is very important to us--in particular our SunChips brand."
The money's yours because we believe in what you're doing, Jones says.
Hewitt then persuades Jones to check out the construction site. On the drive--again, it's documentary-style, not necessarily documentary--he tells Jones he can't get enough of those multigrain snacks. "I love SunChips--Harvest Cheddar is my favorite," Hewitt says. "I love that stuff."
Jones later closes the episode by facing the camera and saying, "When we at SunChips heard about (Greensburg's) plans, we just had to get involved, because we're a brand that believes small steps really can change the world."
But SunChips isn't giving away a year's supply of chips to a game-show winner. The $1 million apparently looks to be a linchpin in jumpstarting Greensburg's rebuilding.
It's not completely altruistic. The series is likely to make Greensburg a notable tourist attraction, and in the center of town will be the "SunChips Business Incubator." If you're a university and you want a new library wing, sometimes you've got to give away the nameplate.
Beyond Greensburg, SunChips has tried to use "green" as a brand differentiator. (It recently added solar power to a plant in California.) And Jones told Brandweek that there is "an intersection of people who (are) concerned with their health and the planet's health."
In the end, the people of Greensburg may want to thank Omnicom's OMD, which suggested that SunChips find a way to attach itself to the "Greensburg" series. "We jumped on board," Jones told the publication. "It is at the intersection of right for the brand and right thing to do. It's such a logical right thing to do."
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