Kraft Bakes Up Love, Suspense, Cookies in Web Soap Opera

Peek Freans, the Kraft lifestyle cookie that was created with the notion of being “better-for-you,” just got a little bit “badder.”

Beginning this week, the 150-year-old Canadian biscuit line (which also is sold in parts of the U.S.) will find itself embroiled in a series of love, hate, mystery and heartbreak storylines as Kraft looks to market the brand to a hipper and younger mobile audience. On Sept. 18, soap opera fans can tune in via Internet, podcast and iTunes feeds to watch As the Cookie Crumbles.

As the Cookie Crumbles will air for eight consecutive Thursdays (3 p.m. ET) at; during the seventh episode, viewers can vote on one of three possible endings (Kraft, however, retains the right to choose the ending it deems most fitting). For Kraft, this marks the first time the Canadian cookie brand — which is available in both a healthy and premium treats line — has embraced the Web as a mainstream advertising component. Previously, advertising for Peek Freans consisted mostly of TV and print. The new integrated online effort consists of a Wikipedia entry page, a Facebook fan site and marketing on leading Canadian Internet sites. Support also includes a direct mail and print campaign.

Spend for the effort was not disclosed. Lead agency for Peek Freans is Draft/FCB, Toronto; As the Cookie Crumbles creative concept was developed by Momentum, Toronto.

The preview for the Webisodes ends with a plug for the Kraft brand: “And so, like a tornado in the trailer park, this is As the Cookie Crumbles. As the Cookie Crumbles is brought to you by Peek Freans Lifestyle Selections. Better-for-you cookies that taste so good, we created a new way for you to be bad.”

The concept is not new. In 2005, Unilever, as part of its I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! campaign, had an online series that centered around an animated spray named Spraychel, who lives in a refrigerator occupied by various guests, including a stalk of asparagus named Gus.

“We’ve been looking at entertainment ways to market the brand,” said Farrah Bezner, senior brand manager at Peek Freans, East York, Ontario. “We’ve taken consumers’ love for soap operas and given them a dose of what that is: love, scoundrel, murder. You have all the stereotypical elements you’d expect to find in a soap opera.”

The cookie soap opera chronicles the drama at the Casa di Tea, an oceanside teahouse that is the hangout of all persons prestigious in Glamora County. Ansil, the owner of the teahouse, is married to a former exotic dancer named Carmen, who in turn is carrying out an affair with “the best tea and biscuit sommelier in town,” Cameron. The blond-haired, muscle-bulging chap, in the meantime, is two-timing his fair lady via hot dates with Daffney, the teahouse’s waitress.

As if that wasn’t enough trouble in the brewing, Diana, the blonde who sits down to a daily indulgence of Peek Freans blueberry brown sugar cookies with flax everyday, is trying to set up her mouse-of-a-friend, Gretchen, with the local musician, Chaz. Turns out Chaz wrote a song (was love the theme?) about Diana, instead. Be forewarned: You must be 18 or older to enter the site!

Too much drama? James Gregory, CEO at brand consultancy firm CoreBrand, New York, said that’s exactly what Kraft wants to have. “They’re trying to sustain interest over a period of time, to make sure that the brand connects with the public,” he said. “As the Cookie Crumbles fits right in with all the other soap operas, like All My Children and Days of Our Lives.”

However, entertainment is not the sole purpose of the concept, said Gregory. The ads are also fair game for Kraft to dispel the notion that “better-for-you” equals a compromise in taste, as far as the cookie is concerned.

“It’s very clear that the marketing is on behalf of this cookie,” said Darren Paul, a managing partner at marketing firm Night Agency, New York. “It uses entertainment as the hook, but instead of burying the brand or not including it at all, which a lot of viral campaigns do, consumers learn up front that, ‘O.K. This is an ad. Do I want to invest my time in it?’ Because they can very well wait later on, and find out it was an ad after all and be pissed off because they weren’t told in advance.”