UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Ralston Foods cross-promotes with video titles to create excitement and stand out in a crowded supermarket, said Dan O'Neal, director of promotion services for the St. Louis-based company. "We compete in the ready-to-eat cereal category, which is one of the more competitive categories in the grocery trade," he said. "So we are constantly trying to break out of the clutter, not only to reach the retailer, but also to reach the consumer. "We are trying to capitalize on the hype of the video release date and some of the fun and excitement that is involved in a video tie-in. We are looking for additional quality merchandising, which is really what moves our business. We define quality merchandising as feature ad support and also some display activity," he said. O'Neal made these comments as part of a panel discussion here at a conference on video cross-promotions sponsored by Brand Marketing, Supermarket News and Aim Promotions, Astoria, N.Y. O'Neal said Ralston carefully evaluates a video before committing to a cross-promotion. For example, the company looks to see if the theatrical release was successful and if there was sufficient excitement associated with the title. In response to a question from the audience, he explained the risks associated with such cross-promotions and how he avoids them. "First of all," he said, "we try to make sure that we are tying in with something that has been extremely successful; that is, a top two or three performer. That is part of the reason why we have chosen video vs. theatrical releases. That helps us to minimize some of the risk. "Additionally, we need to make sure that it is perfectly situated for our target audience so that we don't misplace some of our strategies," he continued. "Finally, we want to make sure that we put together a cohesive package that includes all elements necessary to be able to merchandise our product effectively. By doing all of those things and communicating effectively in a timely fashion, hopefully we will have a good chance of being successful."
Other panelists included Jay Abraham, vice president of marketing for Food Lion; Alan Perper, senior vice president of marketing for Paramount Home Video; Kirk Mueldner, director of video operations for Hy-Vee Food Stores; and Glen Fischer, video buyer for D&W Food Centers. The discussion was moderated by Max Goldberg, vice president of promotions for Buena Vista Home Video.