Oh, maybe a billion bucks, give or take. But let’s back up a little. When last we left our hapless heroes at Post Cereals it was 1964. They were alerting the media about their big idea of packaging pre-made toaster-ready jam turnovers in metallized mylar packets. Announcements started appearing in national papers that week.
That Thursday over at the Kellogg Company, CEO J.P. Bigshot was following the story closely. “Say, that’s a pretty good idea,” he said through a mouthful of doughnut. “But what’s Post calling these things? Country Squares??? That’s about as exciting as a Beverly Hillbillies re-run. Miss Jones, get me the R&D department.”
Not a month later, the boys in R&D, their lab coats pressed and starched specially for the occasion, were showing off their new ready-to-eat packaged pastries to the company brass in the boardroom.
“And all the consumer has to do is open the little mylar packet like so,” said Myron Frisbee, Bighot’s head of research. “You drop them in the toaster like this, then push the button.” The whole room waited in tense silence for nearly two minutes while the pastry heated. Delicious aromas of caramelizing crust and burning brown sugar wafted through the room, until…inexorably…DING! The toaster basket released and the delicately singed turnovers popped into sight. The chief executives burst into applause.
“The pastries emerge hot and delicious,” Frisbee continued over the din. “The perfect compliment to a rocket-age breakfast!” Cheers began to break out. The boardroom door opened and more research staff members entered with hot pastries on platters. They circulated them to the group to audible oohs and ahhs. Bigshot surveyed the happy scene.
“Nice work, Frisbee,” he said, rising out of his chair.
“Thank you sir, I don’t mind telling you we’ve been staying up nights trying to get these right.”
“And it shows, Frisbee. It shows.” He grasped Myron’s hand, then gave him a manly pat on the shoulder. “So what are we calling them? Any ideas on that?”
“The working name is Fruit Scones, sir.”
Bigshot’s brow furrowed. “No, no that’ll never do. We’re not selling these to the Queen.” He turned and called over his shoulder. “Miss Jones, get our ad agency on the phone, and put off my tee time until 1:30. We’ve got work to do.”
At the time the Kellogg Company entrusted its advertising to Chicago’s legendary Leo Burnett Company. Burnett and his agency had been responsible for all of Kellogg’s most successful campaigns. Internationally-recognized mascots like Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle and Pop were their creations. After a few weeks of deep thought and all-night creative sessions, Burnett and his jet-lagged but enthusiastic creative team were setting up their easels in Bigshot’s office.
“This better be good, Leo,” Bigshot said stirring sugar lumps into a cup of coffee, his massive fingers pinching a tiny spoon. “Country Squares are hitting the shelves next week. I’ve got the printers on hold waiting for your big idea.”
“And we’ve got it, J.P.” Burnett said, putting his own cup down on Bigshot’s walnut desk. Swallowing a large sip, he waved over his shoulder at his disheveled team. “OK, boys, let’s get this show on the road.” The creative director pulled back the cloth to reveal a black-and-white picture of Andy Worhol mounted to a presentation board. “You know this fellow, I presume,” Burnett said with enthusiasm. Bigshot scowled.
“Yes,” Bigshot said. “My wife just returned from a shopping trip to New York where she spent a thousand dollars on a picture of a can of soup. Thank you so much for reminding me.”
Burnett gave a perfunctory laugh. “Ha ha. Just bear with me, J.P., alright? The stuff that he and this guy Lichtenstein are doing is hotter than hot right now. In fact I think you could safely say the art world is on fire for it.” The creatives began pulling out boards showing images of Coca Cola bottles, Ben-Day-dotted comic book plates, and strange, mixed-media still lifes.
“We’re not selling these pastries on the streets of SOHO, Leo.”
“I know that J.P., just hear me out. They call this stuff ‘pop art.’ It’s hip, it’s now, it’s rock and roll. It what all the kids are going crazy for!”
“And this leads in exactly what way to my toaster pastries?” Bigshot demanded. He pressed the tips of both sets of fingers together in his most impatient gesture.
“Like this!” The tallest and most haggard creative director pulled back the curtain on the largest easel. Behind it was a giant, bubble-lettered logo in white and blue. “Pop Tarts” it read. Several of Kellogg’s rectangular pastries were arranged attractively below. To the side a cheerful cartoon toaster looked on.
Bigshot stared, his stern expression unchanged. The room fell completely silent as Burnett’s team waited for a response. Leo was ready for this moment. It was how every big Kellogg’s presentation went. He was 80% positive he had Bigshot from the word go. Still he could feel his new white shirt getting moist under his iridescent blue suit jacket. He waited.
Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Thirty. A minute. Someone on the team coughed nervously. Burnett’s glance didn’t waver. He clenched his teeth behind a frozen smile and stared intently at Bigshot, looking for the slightest sign of life in the contours of his face. He saw nothing. And then…just at the corner of Bigshot’s mouth, his lip began to curl. Bigshot’s brow slowly relaxed and he focused on the board like a fox that had just caught sight of its dinner. His mouth drew back in a tight smile. After a moment or two he shot a look at Leo and slowly…slyly…began to nod.