Orville Redenbacher, iconic American businessman and inventor of gourmet popping corn who died in 1995 has been resurrected by Omaha-based ConAgra Foods and Crispin, Porter & Bogusky in a new campaign for the popcorn brand which is owned by ConAgra.Â In the first spot, Redenbacher marvels at how light MP3 players have become, then transitions into his product benefit (Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn pops up lighter and fluffier than ‘ordinary popcorn’). CGI graphics apparently render the movements of Redenbacher’s mouth as well as his post-mortem appearance in the commercial.
If ConAgra (or more likely Crispin, Porter) was looking to draw some attention, then they will certainly get it with this jarring spot.Â Anyone remembering Redenbacher from the commercials of the 70′s through early 90′s will have a strong opinion about this campaign.Â We suspect that the recall of this spot will be extremely high.
Younger audiences may not be familiar with Redenbacher and might not understand the implication of his appearance.Â The selling proposition of this spot is still relevant and might work if the central issue of Redenbacher’s appearance after his death is overlooked.
This advertising blog witnessed a lively debate over the Gap/Audrey Hepburn spot (see our commentary here).Â While the ad was well-executed, creative and cast an interesting light on Hepburn and Gap, many felt that it was morbid and inappropriate to resurrect Hepburn to peddle a product she never used in her life.
This appearance by Orville Redenbacher is ethically simpler, but much more distasteful in execution.Â Redenbacher is resurrected to tout his life’s work, the product he loved with virtually the same words he used in the 70′s and 80′s.Â Crispin, Porter and ConAgra, however, seem intent on pushing the viewer to acknowledge Redenbacher’s demise and resurrection by having him comment on MP3 players – an innovation that wasn’t around while he was.Â This is what makes the spot feel so jarring and disconcerting.Â CGI animation which makes it clear that Redenbacher’s lower jaw has been resynched to his new words like a marionette reinforces the chilling effect of this spot.
The problem with this spot is really that it is more provocation than sales pitch.Â Crispin, Porter shoves our nose in the superhuman power of corporations to revive the dead for their own ends.Â The crudeness of this effect makes it feel like subversive social commentary, striving for the exact effect it produces.
We doubt it will sell much popcorn.
Branding Bottom Line:
Redenbacher makes us think about death every time we eat popcorn.Â Thanks, ConAgra.