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DreamWorks, Dole make ‘organic marketing connection’

Yes, we have no bananas. We have only promotional vehicles today.

In an increasingly cluttered advertising environment, marketers will venture just about anywhere to speak to consumers: whether it's on the street or even in the toilet. Now the produce aisle is bringing you a word from its sponsors.

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. is promoting this Friday's release of animated feature film Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with stickers on bananas at your local store. The fruit began to hit shelves in the U.S. and Canada on May 24, through a partnership with Dole Fresh Fruit Co. – which DreamWorks is officially announcing Monday – that encompasses 100-million branded bananas across North America, a natural fit for a film that features a banana-powered airplane flown by monkeys.

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"We're happy that we were able to find an organic marketing connection," said Susan Spencer, DreamWorks head of national promotions and marketing services – pun very much intended.

The campaign is more than a cutesy tie-in, however. DreamWorks is looking for new ways to communicate with its target audience – moms, who make many purchasing decisions in a family, including groceries and movie tickets – in a new way.

"These kinds of tie-ins lend themselves well to communicating with moms and families, beyond what you would get in a traditional media buy with television," Ms. Spencer said.

Speaking to those moms, however, required a change to the standard movie tie-ins with soft drinks, candies and fast food. The growing conversation around childhood obesity is part of what led DreamWorks to portray itself as a partner for a variety of healthy options as well, Ms. Spencer said.

"It helps the nag factor, to take the product off the shelf, and tell mom and dad that they want to see the movie," she said. That nag is more powerful if the parents in question are happy about the product being pulled off the shelf.

The studio's first venture into fresh-fruit marketing was in 2007, when it chose to advertise Shrek the Third on packaged apple slices at McDonald's – a menu item the fast-food chain introduced to push a new image as a purveyor of healthy options.

In 2010, DreamWorks partnered with Georgia-based Vidalia Onion Committee to promote the fourth Shrek film by making the ogre a pitchman for the stinky vegetable. The type of branded movie packaging normally reserved for sugar-laced cereals was slapped on bags of bulbs, and sales rose.

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DreamWorks is not shunning sugar, however: other promotional partners for Madagascar 3 include Airheads candy, Blue Bunny ice cream, and Kraft Foods Inc.'s Jell-O. But it will also roll out branded packages of Sun-Maid raisins and even House Foods tofu. House Foods America will also launch a Madagascar-branded "mad about tofu recipe contest," with ads in print, on billboards, bus wraps and social media.

Dole has seen a rising demand to use its stickers in fresh-fruit advertising partnerships. Earlier this year, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox promoted Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked with banana stickers that gave away a free ringtone when a QR (quick-response) barcode was scanned with a smartphone.

"Many advertisers are looking to partner with healthier brands these days," said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Dole Fresh Fruit, "or at least to enhance their traditional snack food and candy partnerships with products in the produce department."

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