Aug 09, 2009

George Romero meets Snap, Crackle, and Pop

Why would you try to sell children's cereal with zombies?

I'm not sure either.

Kellogg's Corn Pops recently debuted a new spot parodying old horror movies. As an adult, I'm not really in the target audience for the cereal so I never even noticed the ad and likely would have never given it a second thought except for one important reason: the ad scares my six-year-old.

My son is very much a member of the target audience for Corn Pops, especially given his love for sugary, sweet, and otherwise nutritionally lacking food. And he has no problem with monsters - he loves Godzilla and is a fan of the sci-fi series Doctor Who, which has its share of scary monsters and aliens.

The Corn Pops spot titled "The Spooning," however, isn't giving him a fun scare. Even before the commercial gets past the first few seconds, he pleads for us to change the channel. When he first did this, I asked him why he didn't like the spot given that he never has reacted this way to any advertising. When he told me there were zombies in it, I frankly thought he had to be mistaken.

He wasn't. There are. Zombie milkmen apparently, but zombies nevertheless.

I know firsthand that my son is the kind of target audience brands selling to kids love. Trust me, trying to wrangle a manageable Christmas wish list from a kid who pretty much wants whatever he sees advertised during the holiday season makes for an annual adventure.

Ads that are aimed for him will strike a chord with my son. And the Corn Pops struck one too, just not a pleasant one. It pushed all the wrong buttons and had the opposite effect Kellogg's intended. My son has stated that he never wants to eat Corn Pops. Ever.

I realize the whole ad is meant to be spoofing horror movies but the problem is that the target demographic might be in on the joke and be disturbed, not delighted by the commercial. Beyond not being really appropriate for its target audience, it's just plain creepy.

Now, some older viewers might pooh pooh my take on all of this, and I have seen comments online praising the commercial. But I've only seen the spot on programming geared for kids. It's not trying to reach hip adults who are in on the joke - it's being delivered to young children who might not find the whole thing so funny or clever. The association with the Corn Pops brand won't be a positive or even amusing image for these kids, it will be zombies scaring them. Effective messaging, just not the kind a brand typically desires.

I'm not sure why this treatment was taken for this target audience, unless Corn Pops have a different demo than I thought. I ate them when I was younger (when they were Sugar Corn Pops) but grew out of them because well, it's a kid's cereal.

So aiming an ad that has the tone of "The Spooning" seems to be a misfire. The horror genre that it parodies isn't one that a younger crowd should be familiar with anyway, so who is the ad supposed to be targeting?

The last line the terrorized corn pop says in the ad is, "Please don't eat me."  The commercial ends with that appeal about to be ignored by the pop-craving undead. That corn pop's got nothing to worry about from my son.