When StarKist Seafood introduced the biggest wave of innovation in tuna history, StarKist Tuna in a Pouch, they reeled in Ketchum/Pittsburgh to plan an equally innovative public relations campaign.  To build upon the successful national media outreach launch and achieve one-on-one consumer interaction, Ketchum also executed an exciting local market program called Lunch with Charlie.  In Orlando and Jacksonville, events were executed in high-traffic lunchtime locations and featured recipe demonstrations, sampling and product giveaways.  By integrating celebrity Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island), Charlie the Tuna, radio promotions, couponing and a contest to win a speedboat, more than 8 million residents personally experienced “Lunch with Charlie” and StarKist Tuna in a Pouch. The success of these events encouraged StarKist to base future marketing programs on the local market event tactic.


Primary Research:  1) Phone interviews with 900 heads of households proved that the brand’s icon, Charlie the Tuna, has an 82 percent awareness among consumers.  Brand association is 48 percent.  This insight proved to Ketchum that Charlie the Tuna needed to be the primary focus of the PR campaign.  2) Research conducted by StarKist found that consumers preferred the pouch five to one.  This meant that consumers would be receptive to trying the new pouch if media messages communicated product improvements.  3) Focus groups revealed that key product attributes preferred by consumers were no draining and no can opener (62%).  Key messages were prepared based on this insight.

Secondary Research:  1) Database searches confirmed Charlie’s distinction as an advertising icon, confirming his starring role in the campaign.  2) Orlando and Jacksonville were chosen as test markets because CDI and BDI indexes found these cities average to slightly above average in tuna consumption, both provided affordable local advertising options and both had two large retailers for fast and efficient distribution.  


Program Objectives:  

  • Increase StarKist Pouch share in Jacksonville and Orlando from 1 to 3 (the product had distribution and 1 share by the November events).
  • Generate awareness of the new StarKist Tuna in a Pouch via coverage in five media outlets per market. 
  • Drive product trial via product sampling, more specifically by distributing 2,000 lunches, 1,000 goodie bags with product sample and 5,000 coupons per market.

Strategy: Leverage Charlie’s brand recognition for one-on-one consumer interaction.

Audience:  Women 25 to 54 years old     

Budget:  $169,000 ($67,000 PR services and $102,000 out of pocket)


Celebrity Selection:  Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island) had great media appeal and brought a fun, “campy” element to Lunch with Charlie.  In addition to being upbeat and personable, Dawn Wells was a great tie with Charlie and StarKist tuna because she is the only female who hosts a syndicated fishing show, “Dawn Wells’ Reel Adventures,” and she has authored the Gilligan’s Island Cook Book, which features a tuna recipe.  Dawn’s fishing and cooking background, as well as her fame from “Gilligan’s Island,” made her the perfect choice for the campaign and a great link to both Charlie and the SS Charlie Contest.

Food Sampling:  Between the two days, a total of 3,430 Tuna Burgers and 3,590 samples of the All-American Ranch Tuna Salad, the same recipes demonstrated by Dawn, were served to the crowds.  Overall, a total of 7,020 lunches were served.

Signage:  Large banners announcing “Lunch with Charlie”’ and “Charlie presents Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island” were hung in visible places at both events.  Pouches were attached to strategically placed sandwich boards and tabletop signs promoting the event.  The pouches were so popular that by the end of the event, visitors had removed them from all the signage.

SS Charlie Contest:  Ketchum contacted speedboat dealers to research the best prize option considering consumer interest, availability and the best Pouch displaying capabilities.  Baja Marine Speedboats was the company chosen to provide a 21-foot 2001 Hammer speedboat for the SS Charlie Contest.  The SS Charlie, completely filled with StarKist tuna pouches, was one of the visual centerpieces of the events.  Excited visitors lined up to enter the contest to win the boat, which required guessing the exact number of pouches inside it.  A total of 1,500 entries were dropped into the contest entry fish bowls over the two days.

Polaroid Picture Area:  A staged area was set up with a StarKist logo backdrop, SS Charlie ship, giant shell props and two director’s chairs.  In between recipe demonstrations, Dawn posed for Polaroid pictures with the crowd, signing autographs on the sleeves.  Dawn took 410 Polaroid pictures with the fans in Orlando and 450 Polaroid pictures with the fans in Jacksonville. 

Media Relations:  In the days leading up to the events, local media were sent Lunch with Charlie press kits, and then pitched to cover the event and interview Dawn Wells.  A PR Newswire release went out the day before the first event.  Of those contacted, four newspapers, five television stations and five radio stations, 14 total media outlets, either covered the event or conducted live interviews with Dawn Wells.  A wire photo with Dawn and Charlie was distributed over the Florida wire during the Orlando event.

Radio Promotion:  Stations were selected based on their audience of women 25-54.  For the week leading up to the event, WOMX-FM (Orlando) and WEJZ-FM (Jacksonville) conducted paid radio promotions including sixty-second spots and live announcements with Dawn Wells and Charlie talking up the new pouch and the event.  The day of the event, Dawn conducted morning drive interviews and an onsite remote broadcast at the event provided music and entertainment.

Goodie Bags:  One thousand event attendees in each market received goodie bags containing a pouch and coupon, a tattuna (a temporary tattoo of Charlie) and a recipe booklet, which provided guests with a memorable and usable tie-in to the event.  

Street Teams:  During the events, “street teams” of staffers branched out further into the cities to distribute coupons and drive traffic to the event.  A total of about 4,300 coupons were distributed in this manner over the two days.

Mall Visits:  Suburban mall visits were incorporated into the program to maximize coupon distribution in each market.  Charlie, the SS Charlie boat and staffers visited local malls before and after the main lunchtime event to hand out coupons and to give others a chance to enter the contest.  These visits distributed approximately 700 coupons and collected 300 contest entries.


Objective 1:  Increase StarKist Pouch share in Jacksonville and Orlando from 1 to 3:  Three weeks after the event took place the sales results came in highlighting tuna in a pouch as a success.  In the two weeks following the event pouch share in Orlando increased 282 percent, from 1.1 to 3.1.  Even more spectacular was in the two weeks following the event pouch share in Jacksonville jumped 278 percent, from 1.8 to 5.0!  Local advertising also played a role in this growth in share.  The success of these events encouraged StarKist to base future marketing programs on the local market event tactic.

Objective 2:  Generate awareness of the new tuna in a pouch via coverage in five media outlets per market:  Ketchum delivered 7 media outlets per market.  More specifically:  3 newspaper, 2 radio and 2 television interviews were conducted in Orlando; and 1 newspaper, 3 radio and 3 television interviews were completed in Jacksonville.  This accrued 8,754,072 total impressions in only two markets.  These media hits included live Dawn interviews and recipe demonstrations on “Good Morning Orlando” (FOX affiliate) and “Good Morning Jacksonville” (NBC and ABC affiliates), as well as coverage of each Lunch with Charlie event on the evening news (CBS affiliates in both markets).  
Objective 3:  Drive product trial via product sampling; more specifically by distributing 2,000 lunches, 1,000 goodie bags with product sample and 5,000 coupons per market.  Lunch with Charlie exceeded projections in both markets by actually distributing 2,770 lunches in Orlando and 4,250 lunches in Jacksonville.  The SS Charlie Contest received 750 entries per market, totaling 1,500 entries, which exceeded expectations by 150 percent.  Another component that turned out to be a larger than expected success, over the two days, 860 Polaroid pictures were taken with Dawn and Charlie and inserted into Lunch with Charlie photo sleeves.  Additionally, the 1,000 goodie bags and the 5,000 coupons were disseminated in each market.