TrueNorth Begins Search for Oscar-Worthy Commercial

Frito-Lay’s TrueNorth snack brand has launched a campaign inviting consumers to submit their “TrueNorth” tales in a contest that will turn one winner’s story into a TV commercial directed by actress Helen Hunt to air on the Academy Awards.

The contest asks consumers to submit a written story that describes how they or someone they know is pursuing their life’s passion. The most inspiring story will be produced as a 60-second commercial directed by Hunt to air on the broadcast of the 81st Academy Awards in February. The winner will also receive a cash prize of $25,000. Stories are accepted through the end of the year at

“There is nothing more inspiring than seeing people do amazing things,” said Kevin McKeon, partner and executive creative director of StrawberryFrog, which worked with Ketchum and OMD to develop and implement the program.

The strategy comes out of the brand name, TrueNorth, and the company’s mission to make natural nut snacks, said McKeon. “It is reference to the one thing that you are always pointing to,” he said. “As a brand, we want to own the idea of finding your singular passion.”

The contest serves as a teaser to the brand’s 2009 advertising campaign that will break on the Oscars. The effort will include TV spots, print and online advertising and star real people who are pursuing their life’s passions.

In addition to the contest winner, the real people profiled in the spots include Teddy Gross, who started the Penny Harvest to teach kids about philanthropy; Gary Greff, whose sculpture has revived his hometown in North Dakota into a tourist destination; and Majora Carger, who founded Sustainable Bronx.

“We want to make it more than a snack chip and make it culturally relevant,” said McKeon. “People want to associate with brands they share values with.”

The snack targets boomers, adults who are at a time of life when they are seeking healthier snack choices and traditionally contemplate the meaning of life and their legacies, added McKeon. (Read about TrueNorth’s recent ad campaign here.)

To date, McKeon said there have been about 1,000 stories submitted.

“There are a lot of people out there doing extraordinary things, from working with recycling to animals and getting American children to think about global issues” he said. “We’ve gotten some great stories.”

Choosing the winner “will be an interesting debate,” added McKeon. “[We’re looking for] a story that will give people goose bumps and inspire people to go out and do extraordinary things.”

TrueNorth is the snack category-exclusive advertiser on the 81st annual Academy Awards telecast on Feb. 22, 2009.