It’s been about a year since Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey announced it would be closing down its namesake circus. Now, both in response to that decision and in a pretty clever play to get some attention for a brand that’s been more or less forgotten by today’s kids, Nabisco has “uncaged” the cartoon animals on its animal crackers box. Fully 116 years after “Barnum’s Animal Crackers” first appeared, the animals on the boxes are no longer “traveling” in circus train cages.
Now, the menagerie – which includes an elephant, zebra, giraffe, and gorilla – is free and seems to be charging right off the box. This posture is much more likely to grab the attention of kids wandering the grocery store… as well as their parents, who are being barraged with articles touting the change.
According to most reports, Nabisco’s decision to release the beasts was at the request of PETA, and having this organization involved certainly ensures the stories will be bigger and the responses louder. Of the many politically-tinged organizations out there, PETA is one of the best at generating headlines… as well as attention from both supporters and, especially, detractors. For media outlets, the connection was too good to pass up, and PETA, as always, was ready with a statement. Most of the stories covering this change are also reporting that PETA approached Nabisco’s parent company, Mondelez International, with allegations that circuses like the one depicted on the boxes “often beat, chain, and whip animals…”
Mondelez issued a statement downplaying PETA’s influence in the decision, saying: “It’s probably one of, if not the oldest, (product) in our portfolio… We’re always looking to see how to keep it modern, to keep it contemporary with customers.”
Whatever you feel about the decision to redraw the boxes and the animals adorning them, from a public relations perspective, this was a well-executed campaign. Not only did Nabisco get the media to plaster a photo of its boxes in print, on TV, and online for days, PETA was able to piggyback on the campaign, getting a lot more mileage out of the story than they may have otherwise. PETA, of course, used the incident to remind the media of its successful campaigns against the actual circus, as well as other performing animal shows.
For Nabisco, the benefit is that untold numbers of parents are now going to make a point to look for the animal crackers on grocery store shelves coast to coast, something they may not have done since their children were toddlers.