Funny radio ads seem to be working for the California Milk Advisory Board, an advocate of local cheese over dairy rivals such as Wisconsin.
Spots that ran October through December on California and Nevada radio stations helped boost sales of hand-puppet toys and T-shirts 2,000 percent on www.realcaliforniacheese.com. The 18 spots targeted Californians, Nevadans and transplants from other states.
Online banners and TV spots supported through seven brand-building commercials, with three more planned for this year. But it was radio spots running morning, noon and night that bore the heavy lifting of asking people to visit realcaliforniacheese.com and buy plush toys and T-shirts.
“I think radio is a medium that people have on at work or while they're driving,” said Josh Rose, senior vice president of iDeutsch LA, the Deutsch division on the account. “People are very involved and feel very close to the TV campaign. But I think it makes more sense to have the call to action in a medium that's closer to the place where the people will be acting on it.”
All spots were 60 seconds each. One, “Sheep Jokes,” features banter between two chatty and happy cows, Janice and Diane. At one stage, one cow asks the other, “What's the difference between a sheep and a wool sweater?” When the other could not answer, the first cow says, “Mutton.” Laughter is heard.
It goes further. Cow 2: “What do you call a sheep with half a brain?” Cow 1: “What? You know a sheep with half a brain?” There's laughter. Cow 2: “Yes. I call him 'gifted.' Get it? Because he's got … half more than … yeah.”
At the end, a voiceover says, “There you have it. Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California. Real California cheese. It's the cheese. Buy a comfy happy cow T-shirt at realcaliforniacheese.com.”
The plush toys are priced at $14.95 apiece and the three T-shirts at $12.95 each. Made of soft acrylic fur, the hand puppets say three phrases when squeezed.
For example, Janice says, “Endless sunshine. Fresh air. We couldn't be more lucky.” Another favorite is, “I heard in Wisconsin they knock cows in the middle of the night just for fun.”
Diane counters, “We're cows, Janice, we're not stupid.” Another favorite of hers is, “Well, you're in California now. We have grass all year. Knock yourself out.”
T-shirts are equally sunny. One shows a visual of an inquiring cow and a slogan below, “Have you hugged a cow today?” Another shows a more contemplative cow with this copy: “So much grass. So little time.”
In all, the radio ads persuaded Californians to place 5,000 orders, split equally between the plush toys and T-shirts. Orders placed online are delivered in six to eight weeks.
Realcaliforniacheese.com is the milk board's attempt to boost support for domestic cheese over rival products from the country's No. 1 maker of dairy products, Wisconsin. Along with toys and T-shirts, the site also pushes a cheese-tasting guide, an online happy cow calendar and links to an art store.
Also, the site has recipes, coupons, promotions, cheese country map virtual tours and information on California dairy facts, sites and the milk board's seal. Visitors can view the TV spots online, and children can play on the site, too.
“At the heart of the campaign is a sense of hometown pride in California,” Rose said. “People see many of these cows are having a better time in California than Wisconsin. They're able to relate to that.”