Desperate Housewife to sex-up the humble spud
IN Wisteria Lane, she prides herself on being a model cook to her Desperate Housewives neighbours.
And now, in a remarkable coup for a Scottish company, Marcia Cross will promote one of the ingredients of her recipes and the enemy of celebrity diets everywhere – potatoes.
The Hollywood actress, who plays the flame-haired Bree Van De Kamp in the series, is to front a three-month campaign to encourage the British to eat more Rooster potatoes.
Albert Bartlett, the Airdrie-based firm behind the red-skinned, yellow-fleshed potatoes launched in 2003, will kick off the 3 million campaign in October.
The project has been 18 months in the making and Cross was always at the top of the company's list, but she candidly admits she has never even tried Rooster potatoes.
John Hicks, marketing manager with the 60-year-old family firm, said potatoes cannot be sent to the US for quarantine reasons but hoped Cross would visit Airdrie.
He said: "The consumption of potatoes is in decline in the UK, hit by low-carb diets and people spending less time cooking from scratch. We are adding a bit of theatre to make the product more sexy.
"This is ensuring we have consumers for the future. We are a fresh product and we have to promote the benefits of potatoes.
"Marcia Cross liked the script and liked how we handled ourselves as a company. And she was aware of the director, Paul Weiland, who was behind the films Made Of Honour and Mr Bean.
"Marcia hits the right boxes. In Desperate Housewives, Bree is the proud housewife and wants to be known as the best cook in the street. We felt that was too obvious so this is a bit of comedy."
The commercials, lasting 60, 40 and 10 seconds on television, will show a pushy agent offering Cross the role promoting the potatoes, which she initially declines.
This is the first UK advertising campaign in which the actress and mother of two has appeared.
Albert Bartlett said it would promote the range of potatoes, as well as a parallel campaign on their mash, wedges and chips.
The firm employs 450 in Scotland and 900 across sites in the UK. It started in 1948 with just 30 spent on a boiler and bath for beetroot.
In the past four years, there has been a 30 million investment at the Airdrie site.
Advertising experts said the campaign was well timed and that it was a coup to attract such a high-profile name.
Jeremy Kent, chief executive of The Brand Council, said the decline in money spent on advertising during the recession meant the 3 million investment was the equivalent of up to 5 million just two years ago.
He said: "With a high-profile campaign now, you can steal a lot of market share. If you increase advertising through a recession, research shows you will come out on top at the end of the recession.
"Using a celebrity endorsement is tried and tested. They're doing all the right things."
Kim Hamilton, an account manager with PR firm Beattie Communications in Glasgow, said: "I think that this will turn a lot of heads.
"I think most Scottish women know who Marcia is and it will get people talking about potatoes, even if they are the enemy of Hollywood diets."
Steve Barton, an independent consultant, said Cross was a face most people know. But he warned that buying in fame can have risks, if the star's reputation goes bad, such as Kerry Katona's recent axing as the face of Iceland.
The Rooster potato was developed in Ireland and became their top-selling variety in recent years.
Albert Bartlett bought the UK rights to grow and sell the potato 14 years ago, officially launching it in 2003.
The last commercial for the potatoes used the voice of actor Tom Baker, famed as the fourth Dr Who and the voice of Little Britain.
Average life expectancy: 73 years
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