A Stirring Effort

When Findus launched a range of frozen meals in a bag – Create-a-Stir – its agency Noye & Young had the idea of taking a roadshow around the country to promote the product. Steve Hill, of the exhibition and display company Academy Expo, report

The Findus Roadshow visited the UK’s largest shopping centres this summer as part of the launch of the brand’s new frozen meals in a bag – Findus Create a-Stir.

The brainchild of Findus’ PR consultancy, Noyes & Young, who ran the operation under a new subsidiary N&Y Live, the roadshow was stage- managed by 964 Productions, a division of Birmingham Broadcasting. The roadshow combined participative entertainment with education and mass-cooked food sampling. The show-stand and stage-rig therefore had to combine vibrancy and impact with the ability to “put on a show”, while at the same time conforming to all the hygiene regulations required for the cooking and serving of frozen food in a public place.

Findus Create-a-Stir is an entirely new concept in frozen ready meals. So consumer sampling is therefore pivotal to its marketing strategy, and the company decided to embark on a programme of marketing events designed to take Create-a-Stir out to consumers.

This allowed shoppers to see the quality of the product, the convenience of being able to pour out the serving size required, and the speed with which it can be prepared using the stir-fry method. In addition, Findus wanted to give consumers the opportunity to taste the final result.

N&Y devised the concept of the roadshow which visited four major shopping centres around the country, staying at each venue for four days, with eight to ten 30-minute shows a day.

Academy Expo’s brief from N&Y was for the production and design of the back wall of the stage-rig, cooking and display units, gantry and all signage, for a roadshow which was to be more than just a food sampling exercise.

It was to feature celebrity chef Steve Saunders from BBC TV’s Ready Steady Cook, with support from a team of home economists and presenters.

The project was further complicated by the various sizes and locations of sites where the roadshow was to be set up. This meant that the display had to be readily portable, easily assembled, and be entirely adaptable to different sizes of floor space and ceiling heights.

All this also had to be achieved within Health & Safety Executive regulations for the cooking and serving of frozen food. To meet these regulations we had to provide space behind a screened area for two sinks, hot and cold water, frozen food storage equipment, microwaves, fire extinguishers and waste containers.

The public show area also had to cope with a programme of family games and competitions run by an experienced events DJ, featuring promotional giveaways such as T-shirts, badges and spatulas, and a facility to show the Findus Create-a-Stir TV commercial.

However, the most important part of the show was the product demonstration itself which was to be carried out using electric frying pans so that there were no naked flames creating a fire hazard. Public safety had to be further ensured with splash guards around all cooking areas.

The whole stage set and display was brought together by graphic images created by Academy which had to be consistent with the overall campaign and reflect the Continental feel of the Findus Create-a-Stir range.

The solution came in the design of an integrated modular pole and panel and gantry system which has an optimum size of seven metres wide by four metres deep. However, its modularity allows it to be fitted into spaces of anything between four metres and nine metres deep, and as little as three metres wide.

Two product demonstration units were included and featured overhead cameras. These transmitted Saunders cooking the product to two TV monitors set in plinths at the front of the stage.

To reinforce the campaign’s creative consistency, the monitors were also used to show the Findus Create-a-Stir television commercial during breaks, and the plinths doubled as storage space for the branded merchandise being used in promotions.

Space behind the back wall allowed for the installation of a portable kitchen with the facilities for a large-scale sampling operation.

Academy and its creative wing Visionary Images also produced the graphics for the display. These were in Findus corporate style, carrying the Findus Create-a-Stir bright red pack identity and included panels on the back wall giving a giant poster appearance, as well as panels on the front of the plinths, and a high-level rigid banner across the gantry system.

So far the Findus Create-a-Stir roadshow has been to shopping centres in Birmingham, Bristol, Lakeside Thurrock and the Metro centre in Gateshead. At all these it has operated at maximum capacity and served 1,000 samples each day. As a result, a second phase of roadshow visits is being planned.

But perhaps the final word on the success of the project should go to Findus marketing manager Frank McKeown, who says: “The key Findus brand messages of quality, convenience, value for money, and innovation are exemplified by Findus Create-a-Stir, and we believe the roadshow is a powerful medium for communicating those messages.”

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