Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Will lickable ads help take product experience home?

This is one of those stories that's a little too bizarre not to mention. According to this Wall Street Journal article, Welch's is taking out full page ads in People magazine this month that feature a lickable patch that supposedly tastes like its grape juice. Innovative, gross, or both? You decide:

Marketers are excited about the prospects for lickable ads, but also have to deal with the "ick" factor. Since magazines are often passed from reader to reader (think doctors' offices) there is a good chance that saliva could be left on the ad. Readers are supposed to peel off the entire sticker on the Welch's ad before licking, says First Flavor, the company that developed the technology used in the ad. If someone doesn't rip off the whole sticker, First Flavor says, the flap can't reseal, giving people an easy way to know whether the ad has already been licked....
Well, that addresses at least one concern. And kudos to the WSJ for pulling out perhaps the worst example -- sharing lickable ads at a doctor's office -- to make sure readers think twice about whether the idea of a magazine ad that goes in your mouth is really a good idea. However, Welch's seems to be excited by the prospect of offering prospective customers a taste of their products without having to get them into a store first. At least, they certainly seem to have put a lot of effort into the campaign:
[Welch's], which is owned by a cooperative of grape growers, says it went to great lengths to make sure the ad tasted good and that the ingredients used in the lickable strip met safety guidelines laid out by the Food and Drug Administration. It says it spent weeks conducting consumer taste tests and enlisted more than 50 company employees to try the lickable ad. The ad was created by WPP Group's JWT.

Print ads present a unique challenge for marketers because they don't typically have "sound or motion," the two things that tend to make ads stand out, says Paul Caine, president of Time Inc.'s Entertainment Group, which includes People magazine. Adding taste is one way to create a new way to grab reader attention, he says. People has experimented with adding sound chips to some print ads.

Welch's says the ad costs a couple hundred thousand dollars more to create than a normal national print ad because it had to pay to make the sticker plus an additional fee to People for the added production costs. The ad will appear in the Feb. 18 issue of the magazine, which has a circulation of about 3.6 million.

Getting people to use multiple senses to process ads is a good way to build a stronger connection with consumers, ad experts say. "It's hard to forget whose brand you are licking," says Lisa Haverty, a cognitive scientist who works in the marketing field.
Of course as we've all talked about before, being able to really interact with products is one of the big draws of brick-and-mortar retailers today, and that will likely remain the case for some time (even if lickable ads do become all the rage). But it's pretty cool to see a company recognize that their print advertisements were only so effective, and trying out some out-of-the-box solutions to see if they could bring benefits traditionally associated with the in-store environment into a consumer's home.

As for me... well, I think I'm going to avoid any ads that have a "your tongue goes here" sticker on them. At least for now :)

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Jay Minkoff said...

As the president of First Flavor, the company bringing this Peel 'n Taste product to market, there is a major correction to the WSJ article: This is not about Lickable Ads. Welch's used the term 'lick' in their ad and no one seems to have bothered to read the fine print.

Our product, which can be attached to a print ad and peeled off, is a sealed tamper evident foil pouch containing a piece of edible film. (Similar to popular breath strips.) One peels opens the pouch and places the piece of edible film on your tongue. The edible film dissolves quickly leaving you with a burst of flavor. No licking involved!

The point that was really missed was that finally consumers now have a way of trying the taste of a product before they buy it. We call it taking a product for a 'Taste Drive'!

Bill Gerba said...

Hi Jay. Thanks for the clarification. The WSJ certainly did liken the technology to scratch-n-sniff, which can be re-used a number of times, and by different people. Hearing your explanation makes it sound a lot more hygienic and appealing :)