Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A Calvacade of New. Giving 2-bite brownies for dogs 20 seconds of fame.

cutline: John Scott on the set of Canada AM, showing new food products coming to a store near you this winter.

Three days of PR work (and some midnight veggie shopping) for a brief but fruitful food segment on the Canada AM news show

The media consumes New. New movies. New faces. New problems. New leaders. New messiahs. New ideas on old themes. New New New. And that was just last week's headlines.

Public Relations practitioners who represent clients that have New, will find a welcome reception from usually frosty television show bookers when pitching new. A broadcast favourite is a 5 minute segment that puts the spotlight on a procession of new products - be it clothing, cars, tools, gadgets or new foods. The biggest challenge for PR people is not finding a TV show interested in New, but, deciding which show to offer the Cavalcade of New to.

One of the best places to showcase freshly minted products is on CTV's nationally broadcast morning news/talk show Canada AM. Although its numbers have dropped, it is one of the few Toronto created shows that has a daily cross-Canada English audience. A show and tell with purveyors of New is a welcome break from stories of fires, murders and scandals.

Every so often I help Crane Communications (an Oakville PR firm) with the pitching and servicing of Cavalcade of New segments for Toronto television shows. Owner Linda Crane has a well respected expertise in placing new products on TV, be it on Canada AM or CITY TV's Breakfast TV, Global Television's morning show, Rogers Daytime and now and then the Weather Network. Crane has showcased everything from new boat products (bikini clad models with its bitsy life jackets), to home show cleaning products. Last month I assisted her with the Grocery Innovations Canada trade exhibition and the PR campaign which included bringing shopping carts filled with NEW food products onto Canada AM. Viewers got a chance to see new products that will be making their way onto store shelves this fall and coming winter.

Grocery Innovations Canada, is the country’s largest grocery trade show and conference. Staged for the owners of independently owned food stores, the conference was held on Sunday, October 26 and Monday, October 27 at Toronto Congress Centre.

John F.T. Scott, president, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (pictured above on the set of Canada AM), was our presenter on a Thursday morning Canada AM broadcast. Along with host Seamus O'Regan, the pair managed to look over 50 new things that you will soon see in independent food stores. The show-and-tell ran the gambit from 2-bite brownies for dogs (people can eat them too), to squeeze bagged Ketchup sweetened with honey instead of sugar. Seamus O'Regan sampled new cream cheese spreads on new glutton-free crackers. He took a pass on peanut butter made with soya and only sniffed at 100% peanut free chocolate chip cookies but seemed to be fascinated by new East Indian sauces made in Saskatoon.

The whole process, like the medium itself, is fast, furious and not particularly in depth. Unless viewers have a pen and pencil beside their TV sets, it is unlikely that consumers will actually be able to remember the names of the products they saw flash across their screens. Despite the lack of specific brand recognition, the broadcasted food segment did reap rewards for the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers -- the producers of the trade-only exhibition where the new products were debuted to food store owners.

Scott's performance graphically showed consumers that small independent food stores continue to be an important part of the country's economy. A 2008 Kraft Canada/Canadian Grocer sponsored study reports that independent grocers (including franchises) comprise 40.2 % of Canada’s $76 billion grocery industry.

The independent stores continue to be strong even though their competition is huge -- think WalMart, Price Club, Metro, Soebys and the Loblaws Superstores. The Canada AM segment not so subtlety showed that the corner store is the place to shop to find cutting edge new products.

The under current messages? Independents are concerned about the health of its customers. Many of the product labels shown on TV that morning included the word organic in their names. Some of the new products answer the dietary concerns of a changing population. There were many new ethnic foods launched and the segment also showed that the independents have a desire to go with the 100-mile diet concept ... selling food that is processed within 100 miles of where their ingredients are grown.

5-minutes of television on the run doesn't come easy. Three people spent two 8-hour-days collecting product samples from producers and another 8-hr day to get even more samples (after it was determined that the line-up was a little light). Scripts and back-grounders had to be written, and one run through with John Scott was held via phone conference. Scott had to know everything about every project displayed on TV in anticipation of an out-of-left-field question from a sometimes wacky Seamus.

I personally scoured the market for ornamental gourds, dried Indian corn and orange squashes to decorate our show-and-tell TV set table. I bought veggies at midnight (to be fresh under the lights at 7-am the next morning) and drove an SUV filled with product to Canada AM's east-end Toronto studio at the crack of dawn. Two of us spent an hour dressing the table with the products prior to John Scott going on air.

After the show ended the producers of Canada AM came on set and congratulated the Grocery people for a job well done. We were asked to come back next year ... provided we had something Newer than this year's New to talk about.