In an effort to put the "ha-ha" back in to Halloween, Cheetos is urging the young and old to indulge their mischievous side by toilet papering sites of their choice - if only virtually.
The Project TP digital campaign was launched on October 1, in part to promote Cheetos new limited edition glow-in-the-dark Halloween-themed snack bags. The online game experience lets users pick out any location searchable on Google Maps and, using Street View mapping technology, cover it with toilet paper. Once they do so, they can also share the result on social media for others to see.
"Halloween has gone soft and it's time to take it back," intones Chester Cheetah, the snack food's devilish mascot, on the Project TP website, as he cruises around in his black helicopter scoping out sites to vandalize. The project was launched in conjunction with Google.
"Cheetos has always been about mischief, and what better holiday to spread mischief than the inherently most mischievous holiday of all....Halloween," says Ram Krishnan, vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay, in an email statement to ClickZ.
Whimsical prizes are one lure to user participation. A series of time-sensitive missions such as one to cover the town of Earth, Texas, or another to take back the paper to its source by covering a paper factory, rewards users with prizes including a framed image of the TP'd target signed by Chester, a roll of toilet paper complete with instructions, a project TP flag and, of course, a free bag of glow-in-the dark Cheetos.
This isn't the first mischievous campaign encouraged by the Frito Lay division. A somewhat controversial campaign in 2008 urged the company's target demographic of largely young males to carry out and film "Random Acts of Cheetos" such as throwing the snacks around a co-worker's cubicle. As pointed out at the time by a source in the industry, it is rather ironic to have the brand, a subsidiary of a multibillion dollar conglomerate PepsiCo, basically encouraging people to "stick it to the man."
At the time this article was published, some 295,412 feet of real estate had been covered by the virtual toilet paper, according to the Project TP website.
Cheetos has 1.2 million likes on Facebook. Cheetos' Krishnan declined to give specific numbers on the user reaction to the campaign.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.