California State Fair Promotes ‘Carnaval’ Theme

Don’t look for farm animals or Ferris wheels in Mering & Associates’ new campaign for the California State Fair. In fact, don’t look for any California imagery, either.

Instead, the latest effort from the fair’s longtime agency features scenes from … Brazil. While the setting might seem unusual, Mering creative director Greg Carson said it was a natural choice after fair organizers announced that the 2002 feature program would be “Viva Carnaval.”

Working with a shoestring production budget, Carson said filming the spots on digital video at a Brazilian Carnaval in Salvador, Bahia, was less expensive than trying to create Carnaval scenes closer to home.

Sally Ash, assistant general manager and director of marketing for the fair, said the Carnaval theme is meant to depict the fair as “a world party, a coming together of many cultures.” She added, “We always need to bring something new to the fair-goer and remain cognizant of California and the melting pot that it is.”

Now in its 149th year, the fair has worked with Mering in Sacramento, Calif., for 12 of the last 14 years. This year’s event will be held Aug. 17-Sept. 2 in Sacramento.

Four 15-second teaser spots breaking this week and a 30-second commercial airing next month show California State Fair mascot Poppy the Bear inserting himself into various activities at Carnaval.

“It was such a huge party,” said Carson. “We threw Poppy in the middle of it, and everyone was OK with it.”

Set to what Carson described as “Brazilian-style drum circles fused with a new techno sound,” the spots show Poppy (played by a Brazilian dan cer in a bear costume) performing activities such as running on the beach, riding on a parade float, dancing onstage at a concert and participating in the martial arts.

In addition to the TV spots, the $1 million campaign includes radio, print, outdoor and a guerrilla marketing component, as well as outreach to the Hispanic, African American and Asian populations. Ads are running in Sacramento and in parts of the Bay Area and the Central Valley.