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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida • Page 86

West Palm Beach, Florida
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3TGLF Thtf Post 'and Thg Evening vTfmes; FrtdayMay JP0DODH -a A -iff 1 i I I P4 Ok. VS I' i Aw 7 is nap, crackle, Stars lend personality to sell cereals f.j 1 rcF lilt photos pop! business to turn a hot property into a breakfast food. On supermarket shelves right now there are cereals based on movies like "Ghostbusters," "E.T." and on even Saturday morning cartoon shows as "G.I. Joe" and "The Smurfs." The reason is pre-sell, otherwise known as a ready-made audience. "Because of the pre-existing awareness of the name, a licensed cereal does not require as much introductory advertising as a brand new cereal with a brand new name," says Ron Bottrell, spokesman for Quaker Oats, which recently released its first licensed cereal, "Mr.

In other words, when your child gets hungry after playing with his "Gremlins" doll, reading his "Gremlins" comic books, and washing with "Gremlins" soap, cereal makers hope his mind will turn to "Gremlins" cereal. "We call that the 'Strawberry Shortcake adds Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television. "It's named after a 20-page ad in the New York Times Magazine where the child's entire world had turned into Strawberry Shortcake merchandise: sheets, dishes, everything. When you do that to a child's world, every aspect of his life becomes nauseating." Cereal makers think just the opposite. They think their cereals are appetizing.

"One of the big challenges that parents have is getting their children to eat breakfast," says General Mills spokesman Craig Shulstad. "The licensed character adds interest to breakfast for the child." Not only does the character add interest to breakfast, it does help Mr I 1 LOVABLE E.T.: He's in grocery stores in the form of a breakfast cereal along with the 'Ghostbusters' (above left). By William Rabkin Entertainment News Service J- oe Dante was not happy. After months of work transforming the script of "Gremlins" from a tine horror story into a bizarre comedic thriller, the director had finally changed it into something he liked. Halfway through filming, studio brass informed him that they were going to transform it into some thing he didn't like at all.

"Gremlins" was going to become a breakfast cereal. "It seems like a perversion of entertainment," Dante says. "You work hard to make a movie and you expect it to stand on its own as a movie. You don't see it as a vehicle concocted to sell toys and cereals." That's the difference between Joe Dante and America's cereal manufacturers. For them, it's just good i7 3 Oats', first licensed.

cereal going to confuse Mr. with the lovable Captain Crunch. That's of particular importance to cereal makers, because telling cereals apart can sometimes be difficult. "The formulation of Mr. is different from Captain Crunch," says Quaker's Bottrell.

"While it's true that there are similarities in formulation both are primarily corn and oat flour-based cereals, and both are extruded cereals (extruded through a form to create a shaped cereal) Mr. is formed in the distinctive shape of Ts." Cosmetic changes in shape and packaging are frequently the major differences between cereals. That's only natural, according to their makers. "All cereals are made from only four kinds of grain: corn, wheat, oats and rice," Shulstad explained. "But there are probably an infinite number of ways to package those grains.

There are puffed cereals, extruded cereals: there are differences in shape and size. That's where the variety element comes in." The appeal of that variety element is what manufacturers are counting on. "Kids have insatiable appetites for variety," Shulstad adds. "That is why more than 75 different kinds of cereals are available now." While the cereal manufacturers claim to be responding to the children's "insatiable appetites for variety." somcTUM sav thev ara ixiki- ally creating that appetite. "There are a lot of parents who say that if it weren't for the television commercials with all their gimmicks that tell a kid he won't have any friends if he doesn't eat this cereal, kids would prefer other, milder cereals," Charren says.

"I'm talking about those purple marshmallow things. I think even kids realize that those cereals don't taste too good." But the cereals do taste good, the manufacturers insist. If their product isn't good, all the hype in the world won't keep them in business. "The first purchase will be made out of curiosity," says Bottrell. "but the product will succeed or fail on its own nferits.

There are a lot of startup costs in new product. No company would intentionally put out an inferior product if it had a strong chance of failing. If the product docs not live up to consumer expectations in tastes, texture, crunch, and the other criteria on which cereals are judged, it will fail." Because the licensed character is important only to the cereal's first purchase, manufacturers do not generally spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what flavor best suits Mr Ts personality or (I I Joe's for that matter. The process of naming which cereal after what character seems from the outside to be completely arbitrary. "We don't start with a name and try to find a product to go with it." See CEREALSpage 22 I i lad T- Lends name Jo Guaker.

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