Picture This: A Promotion for Lay’s Chips on Flickr

Snack brand Lay’s is tapping a somewhat unexploited social media outlet—photo-sharing site Flickr—for a new push asking consumers to document their happiness.

This month, the Frito-Lay brand is asking consumers to submit photos of themselves—or family members and loved ones—enjoying life’s happy moments, be it surfing or mixing cookie batter, in a digital push called “The Happiness Exhibit.”

Using Flickr, consumers can upload photos around specific themes such as Mother’s Day or American summers on the Happiness Exhibit portion of its site. Lay’s will then run some of these photos in double-page spreads in upcoming issues of People magazine. The Mother’s Day submissions, for instance, appear in the May 10 edition. The campaign will also extend to include photos on the backs of Lay’s packaging this summer as well.

The campaign is an extension of Lay’s “Happiness Is Simple” effort, which launched last year and played up the brand’s ability to deliver on “life’s simple pleasures” and its American roots. That and another campaign spotlighting local farmers that ran afterwards highlighted the potato chip’s “three simple ingredients: grade-A potatoes, all natural oil and a dash of salt.” The move is part of the PepsiCo-owned snack foods division’s attempt to position many of its munchies as “permissible indulgences,” said Frito-Lay marketing vp Gannon Jones. Tostitos tortilla chips, for instance, are made with “white corn, natural oil and a dash of salt,” while SunChips, meanwhile, contain “18 grams of whole grains per one-ounce serving.”

Lay’s digital campaign builds on those efforts by showing how the potato chip brand is an integral part of consumers’ happy lives. It draws on the insight that potato chips (be it Lay’s or some other brand) are usually eaten during happy occasions like “your birthday, when you’ve got friends over, or you’re watching the game, or it’s the Fourth of July,” said Barry Quinn, executive creative director at Juniper Park, the Omnicom-owned agency that worked on the effort. (OMD handles media buying.)

Lay’s, likewise, is also capitalizing on the growing popularity of photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook. (As part of the Happiness Exhibit, consumers must upload photos via their Flickr accounts, and Frito-Lay has made it easy for non-Flickr users to create a new account and transfer photos over from Facebook.) Its mission is to build the “largest [online] photo-sharing site,” Jones said, which may not sound all that impossible. According to Frito-Lay, two-thirds of Americans have uploaded a photo of themselves to sites like Facebook and Flickr at some point in their lives.

“For us, the behavior of capturing simple, happy moments through cameras and photography is something every American does,” Jones said, adding that, “when it comes to sharing happy moments, there is no more acceptable way to do that than through photography.”

In tracked channels, Lay’s is currently a $1.4 billion brand, per Frito-Lay, citing IRI data. It also is the largest food brand in the U.S., with a 64.3 percent household penetration, Frito-Lay said.

To promote the launch, Lay’s is running online media across sites like iVillage, Yahoo, YouTube and Hulu. Packaging on the backs of yellow Lay’s Classic chips bags—its best-seller—also call attention to the photo project. A print ad in next week’s People, similarly, advertises the push with a collection of amateur “happy photos” all mounted inside picture frames.

Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor Associates, said Lay’s is trying to go after a “bigger idea” with the campaign: “Product differences are so small in that category. It’s hard to tell one chip from another based on taste.”

Though some brands have experimented with Flickr before, the site is protective of its user base and sets strict parameters.

“Marketers have to contribute to the Flickr community in a genuine way in order to be allowed to use it,” said Mike Arauz, a strategist at New York digital shop Undercurrent. Flickr reps could not be reached for comment.

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