January 2010: Connoissuer: Cultural Affairs: Genius, Explained: Juicing The Bottom Line: Ocean Spray

By Matthew Reed Baker | Boston Magazine |

In 2005, as Ocean Spray slogged through a decade-long spell of flat sales, the Lakeville-based cranberry company hired Boston ad giant Arnold Worldwide to gin up a new image. Inspired by Ocean Spray’s heritage as a farmer-owned cooperative, Arnold created a campaign in which two cranberry farmers awkwardly promote products like Cran-Pomegranate and Craisins. The spots blanketed morning news shows and Food Network cook-a-thons just as the craze for antioxidant-rich food was blossoming. Juice sales spiked by 10 percent, and Ocean Spray has enjoyed steady growth ever since. Even cranberry farmers embrace the campaign. "Once they saw how well it worked," says Ocean Spray COO Ken Romanzi, "they turned to liking it pretty quickly." MATTHEW REED BAKER

THE SETTING
Arnold chief creative officer Pete Favat shoots the ads every September in the same bog at the Gilmore family farm in Carver. "Destinations work," he says. "The bog to Ocean Spray is like Golden, Colorado, to Coors."

THE SHOT
Inspired by Grant Wood’s American Gothic, each commercial begins with the same fixed shot of the farmers up to their knees in floating cranberries. The simple template is highly cost-efficient: In one three-day spurt last fall, Favat shot 21 ads.

THE CHARACTERS
Having spent summers on the Vineyard, Favat knew well the fishing-village archetypes of grumpy old captain and clueless young deckhand, so he transplanted their quirky dynamic to the bog. "An old formula," Romanzi says, "but it works."

THE TALENT
Favat sought unknown actors who were charismatic enough to carry the ads without the help of flashy camera work. Henry Strozier and Justin Hagan beat out hundreds of other auditioners.

THE STYLE
The actors wear the same clothes in every ad. The hip waders and gloves are genuine cranberrying gear, while Strozier’s flannel shirt is his own. "The ads are supposed to feel homemade," Favat says, "and his shirt was worn-in and unique."