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Baby carrots: Naughty new junk food

$25 million campaign seeks to portray nutritious veggie as cool and sexy. The Halloween version will come with tattoos.

By Teresa Mears Sep 14, 2010 6:30PM

We've all heard about extreme sports. But did you know about extreme baby carrots?

That's right. Baby carrots have gotten a makeover. No longer are they merely the meek little vegetable you used to pack in your lunch when you were feeling virtuous.


Baby carrots are cool. Baby carrots are sexy. Baby carrots are the extreme junk food.


At least that's the message of a $25 million advertising campaign launched by "a bunch of carrot farmers."


 Post continues after video. (A baby carrot commercial appears following the news story about an agitated candidate.)

How cool are baby carrots? They're on Facebook, they tweet, you can watch them on YouTube and play with them on your iPhone. "We’re out hunting yeti on jet-powered ATVs in Outer Mongolia. Bad cell reception," the carrots tweeted earlier today.


The parody on junk food ad campaigns was created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky for the baby carrot industry. The largest player is Bolthouse Farms, which has 50% of the market.


CEO Jeff Dunn explains the marketing push to USA Today this way:

It's not an anti-junk-food campaign. It takes a page out of junk food's playbook and applies it to baby carrots.

The sale of baby carrots -- which are actually regular-size carrots peeled and cut into smaller pieces -- has declined in recent years, as people responded to the recession by cutting up their own carrots. The goal of the marketing campaign is to double carrot sales, which now total $1 billion annually, in the next two or three years, The Associated Press reported.


AP describes the ads:

Television ads depict futuristic scientists studying crunch, a woman lusting after carrots and carrot sports featuring a young man who launches off a snowy mountain top in a grocery cart and catches in his mouth a carrot shot by a gun below. There are also billboards with messages like "Our crunch can beat up your crunch" and carrot vending machines in schools.

The ad campaign's tag line is "Eat 'em like junk food" and the plan is for carrots to be available in the kinds of packages normally used for potato chips, emblazoned with the words "the original orange doodles."


You can watch all the ads here.


"Scarrots" will be available next month for Halloween, packaged in scary-looking bags with glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos. (Do you dare wear a carrot on your shoulder?)


So far, the "carrot and shtick" ad campaign is appearing in only two cities, Cincinnati and Syracuse, N.Y., but the carrot producers plan to take it nationwide within the year.


Can the power of marketing take what is commonly seen as a rather mundane, if tasty, vegetable and turn it into a sought-after snack with cachet? Milk ("Got milk?"), beef ("It's what's for dinner") and pork ("the other white meat") all benefited from ad campaigns.


Kids certainly respond to advertising. In one study, children 3 to 5 said food in McDonald's packages -- baby carrots included -- tasted better than the identical food in unmarked bags.


Several sources interviewed by USA Today were skeptical that marketing could make carrots appear cool and sexy.


The veggies themselves need to be more fun, suggested ad psychologist Carol Moog, perhaps with a Cheetohs-like dusting of something healthy.


No matter what the ads say, carrots just aren't junk food, says consultant Kate Newlin, author of "Passion Brands." "The guilt is missing."


What do you think? Can marketing make carrots cool and sexy and perhaps infuse a little guilt?


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