INDIANAPOLIS -- The world of high fashion doesn't usually show much interest in pear-shaped models -- unless, of course, they are part of the innovative new ad campaign for Marsh Supermarkets, based here.
In an unprecedented cross-breeding of supermarket produce ads and fashion show glamour, Marsh has launched a series of print and television spots featuring shapely female models dressed as -- what else? -- fruits and vegetables.
The new series of plugs for Marsh's produce department, which has already received recognition from industry publications such as Ad Week, consists of individual images of beautiful women wearing exotically fashionable outfits that resemble a particular fruit or vegetable such as a strawberry, an orange, grapes, or a pear. Each model holds a real sample of their respective food in hand.
The ads contain a small picture of the featured food next to the slogan "Introducing This Season's Freshest Looks," a play on words that recalls both the agricultural and fashion "seasons" often referred to in each industry.
One of the spots shows a model posing in a long, form-fitting orange dress with subtle horizontal stripes and the tip of her hair dyed bright green as she dangles a bundle of carrots in one hand. Another shows a slim model dressed in a dim green, strapless dress over a very large, bulging stomach, holding a pear in the palm of her hand.
"With Marsh having such a fresh produce department, we wanted to match that with an equally fresh approach to their ads, and I think we definitely achieved that with this new campaign," said Ron Foth Sr., president and chief executive officer of Columbus, Ohio-based Foth Advertising, which was commissioned by the retailer to create the campaign.
With a target audience of adult female consumers, the new promotional pieces represent a "contemporary and mature approach" to both fashion and produce, using each to "stretch the boundaries of the other" -- the goal of the campaign from the start, Foth said.
"We thought it was a unique way to focus on a product or a whole category while, at the same time, building a brand image for the retailer," said Foth. "Many agencies feel you can't do both. We think you can."
Foth said that the series is also designed to appeal to children ages six to 12 years, in that the costumes worn by the models, and the basic concept of "dressing up and pretending" would draw a reaction from the youthful consumers.
The "costumes" worn by the campaign's fashion models were designed and created by New York dressmaker Melissa Drayton-Lisbon, and each ad was photographed by award-winning cinematographer and photographer Marc Reshovsky.
"The people we brought in to work on this project are probably the last names that would normally come up when one is creating a produce promotion," said Foth. "But their style and perspective brought exactly what we wanted these ads to convey -- originality and a fresh approach."
According to the adman, the series exudes "quality and style in every aspect of its presentation that is representative of the quality and style of Marsh's produce department and its products. Though this initial wave of spots does not directly address product cost, variety or other factors traditionally associated with supermarket advertising, Foth said that they aimed to "make an emotional connection" with consumers.
A second tier of the campaign, which Foth said will follow the current sequence sometime next year, delves into quality control, pricing and other more technical issues of Marsh's produce operation.
"What we want with these ads, and what we've already seen early on, is an immediate reaction from those who see them," said Foth. "That will form the connection we want between the ads and Marsh, and that will pique people's interest. It was a very strategic campaign from the beginning."
In creating the unusual plugs, Foth said that his agency hoped to blend a local advertising objective with national style and execution, putting Marsh Supermarkets in a realm of their own when it comes to produce promotion. The print ads are being run in newspapers, magazines, on billboards and at sporting events in the Indianapolis metropolitan area.
Marsh Supermarkets, who did not respond to SN's requests for an interview regarding the new campaign, will also launch a series of Foth-created commercials for marsh.net, its recently updated Web site, and a television spot focusing on the retailer's commitment to the local community.
Foth added that customer reaction to the campaign has been extremely positive, and that both Marsh and Foth Advertising have received numerous phone calls praising the string of ads and its creativity.
"To say the least, these ads differentiate Marsh from their competition," said Foth, "and from pretty much anyone else in the country, I'd say."