Lays “Do Us a Flavour ” insiders story + how CapU students hijacked Green Men publicity

I teach a advertising course at Capilano University. This week I had Jill Munro come to speak to my class. Jill is a Vancouver girl and the creator of “Creamy Garlic Caesar” chips, one of four Canada wide finalists in the Lays “Do us a flavour” new chip creation contest. For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you will recall I first wrote about this contest back in August. You can link to it here:

I used the campaign example during my first class this term and brought in all four flavours for my students to taste test. We discussed the merits of how traditional and social media were being used. After connecting with Jill on Twitter, I decided to invite her to a class since there was likely an interesting insiders story about the campaign and what it was like to work with the client, the PR agency, and utilize social media contacts to win. Plus, with one week left to go in voting, I figured she was likely motivated to get in front of a room of students.

Jill had a great story to share, but I found three things about the campaign counter intuitive:

1. Media was tightly controlled. While some things were predictable in terms of media buys by the client, others were not, in particular the tightly controlled publicity around the brand. All four contestants received a billboard in their area, print, radio and TV support, and a clever out of home component consisting of election style lawn signs to be displayed in their home town. A national campaign featuring Marin Short dominated early August, jamming out regional and specific flavour efforts. The same public relations company, Fleishman Hillard, who pitched media in the contestants regional markets, represented them all. Free publicity can be a fickle nut to crack, and Jill learned early on that not all markets responded as quickly. In particular, Vancouver was a challenge. But because publicity was so tightly managed, she was not allowed to contact media directly herself, a very frustrating thing for a BBA Media & Communications grad, and in particular when one company was representing the interests of all four highly competitive individuals. While she was certainly encouraged to leverage her social media channels, surely the full power of those was left somewhat untapped, being unable to participate in the creativity of content creation with media partners. It was really only in the last 2 weeks of the campaign that she was unleashed to manage her own media. It would appear that the trust and transparency of allowing individual media contact and unchecked brand messaging, was not something the client, Lays, was willing to risk. Fair enough, but I think they missed an opportunity.

2. Contestants appear to NOT have been selected for their social media influence. This was an interesting one. While most contestants have become reasonably social media savvy, several were not even on Twitter or Facebook at the time the contest began. They have all had to build up a following and learn the nuances of various channels since the August campaigning began. I had previously speculated that Lays would select folks with a strong social media following, in order to leverage their individual power to tell the story about the contest. That assumption was wrong. Again, they likely missed an opportunity.

3. Maximizing Jill’s social responsibility component was largely untapped until she took it into her own hands. This angle should have been golden. Largely unknown on a national scale is the fact that Jill, at the time she entered the contest had been off work for a year, suffering a serious spinal injury, the result of a hit and run snowboard accident. She was a broken woman unable to walk. Since her remarkable recovery was largely aided by efforts of the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, she has vowed to contribute a portion of the $50,000 winnings back to this charity. She’s also, on her own, has been able to get Rick Hansen involved. This is a huge part of her story, and she is only now getting it to media through her own individual efforts.


Enter Capilano University students + creativity

So with one week to go in the campaign, my Capilano University students got creative on the fly. We hatched a plan to have “The Green Men” hijack her campaign, and plug it for the media and over 18,000 fans streaming into Rogers Arena for a Canucks game October 10th literally the next day. For those of you not from the Vancouver area, the Green Men are a couple of crazy guys who dress in skin tight head to toe light green Lycra suits, that taunt the opposing teams players in the penalty box at Canucks games. In Vancouver, they are legendary. Aided tremendously by it being close to Halloween, and being able to find two size XL adult Lycra green suits, plus a couple keen, and animated students, we set out less than 24 hours after her in-class visit to create a media frenzy. I pushed out press releases to media outlets proclaiming that “The Green Men love Cream Garlic Caesar” with the promise of theatrics leading up to game time. Fortunately the wardrobe malfunction involving a broken zipper while the guys changed in a stairwell at the Shark Club was resolved when we realized we had been granted a second chance with a two-way zipper!

What unfolded was nothing short of amazing. While we had hoped to gain media attention, we hadn’t really given enough credit to how popular a photo opp with the Green Men would be. Literally 100s of photos were snapped within a one-hour time period. And what do people do once taking a photo with the Green Men in Vancouver? Of course they share it on Facebook and other social media! Prominent in all those photos was the huge “Vote for Creamy Garlic Caesar” and voting instructions. The photos gave them bragging rights and social equity to their friends. That’s the power of word of mouth at work. Of course folks thought our CapU boys were the real thing and why wouldn’t they? There was absolutely no way they could be ID’d in those suits! We’ve since pushed the photos out to media and had pick up with QMfm and several other media outlet prospects to come prior to close of voting next Wednesday.

Click here to view the Youtube video:

Last time I checked it was at well over 200 views in less than 24 hours…

While this was a national campaign for Lays, the stories connected to the individuals competing were deeply personal and regional. That’s the emotional connection that the client missed out on early on by restricting individual media contact and creativity. It’s my hope that my CapU student’s efforts will push Jill Munro over the top to win the contest. Her chips taste great. She’s supporting a great cause. Plus now having met her in person, I can attest to the fact that she’s a class act. What a great learning opportunity for all. I’m still recovering from all the laughter and fun we had pulling it off!

You can vote for Jill’s Creamy Garlic Caesar at or text “VOTE” to 101010


Mary Charleson


  1. Marilyn,
    Glad you enjoyed both the Word of Mouth post and this story. Also received your detailed email – all great ideas. We definitely need to brainstorm over coffee. This CapU idea came together so quickly and was a ton of fun. We actually got pick up on QMfm and Mountain fm for Jill as well, which is really rewarding. We likely would have gotten some print, given the interest, but with the long weekend in there and early deadlines, there was almost no way we could get uptake prior to the close of voting, since it is on Eastern Standard Time. But talk about learning on the fly for the Capilano University students!

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