ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The National Cancer Institute here reports good results with 5 a Day television spots starring celebrity chef Graham Kerr and it is currently investigating ways to involve supermarkets, an NCI source said.
The goal the institute set when it launched the series of public-service announcements last spring was to sign up 10 major television stations in the first year and it has already got 17 on board, including KOMO-TV, Seattle, and KPIX-TV, San Francisco. And feedback is excellent, according to the NCI.
"That may not seem like a lot, but it is. Because the station has to sign a contract committing to running the spots twice a week at the same time," said the source. And there are other requirements, such as linking the NCI's and 5 a Day's Web sites to the station's own Web site.
Kerr, who is probably best known for his long-running television series, "The Galloping Gourmet," is set to launch a new series this fall. He also is currently a consultant to supermarket chain Haggen Inc., Bellingham, Wash., for whom he has developed an exclusive line of healthy deli salads.
In a recent interview with SN, Kerr spoke enthusiastically about the NCI-sponsored 5 a Day messages.
"This thing I'm doing now with the National Cancer Institute, called 'Do Yourself a Flavor,' is important to supermarkets, I think. It has turned 5 a Day into something that's highly viable," he said.
"The camera work is so well done, and the food is wonderful. I've done over 250 fruits and vegetables, offering ideas about how to move them very quickly into day-to-day food. I think it's some of the best stuff I've ever done."
Kerr went on to explain the format of the 90-second "Do Yourself a Flavor" public-service announcements.
"It's me saying, 'Look, come on, do yourself a flavor, and enjoy these five or more servings of fruits and vegetables everyday."' He described one spot in which he shows how to make tzimmes from onion, sweet potatoes, prunes and matzoh meal.
Television stations are encouraged by the NCI to integrate the spots with their news programs, seeming to make Kerr part of their news team.
"I come on camera and say something like, 'Here's some more food news you can really enjoy. The other day, my wife, Treena, and I went to a friend's home, a Jewish home. They were having a feast and part of the feast was tzimmes. This is made with a little onion, some diced, beautiful sweet potato, packed with all these fantastic antioxidant things, and some prunes.' Then, after I say again, 'Enjoy your five or more fruits and vegetables a day,' I take a forkful of tzimmes and swoon," Kerr said.
Another spot features beets and shows how you can mix them with white vegetables, which turns them pink.
"For example, it makes mashed potatoes pink. Kids love things like that," said the NCI source.
"And it goes on and on like that, with strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates, everything. For the life of me, I don't know why supermarkets aren't pitching their produce at the end of these," Kerr said. Or somehow getting their name tied in with the spots, he added.
The NCI, in exploring possible tie-ins, has suggested retailers could run a loop tape of the spots on a monitor right in their produce departments.
"That would be good for the supermarket, the local TV station, and, of course, for 5 a Day and NCI."
The forerunner of the TV public-service announcements was two years of successful radio spots that also feature Kerr.
"The 60-second radio spots were an experiment and they've done very well. And they still are, but we wanted visual communication, too. The visual aspect of something like this is so strong. It comes across so well on television," said the NCI source.
She said the NCI did a thorough search for the most appropriate chef who "does healthy cooking" when it launched the radio spots and then re-evaluated its choice of Kerr when it added TV last spring. Both times, he won hands-down.
"We felt Graham was the strongest out there who's really committed to healthy cooking and who also has a good eye for what will reach the average person."