Black Diamond’s cheesy billboard stunt generates 200+ million media impressions

Who: Lactalis Canada Inc. (Black Diamond brand), with Broken Heart Love Affair for strategy and creative, HypePR and Glossy for PR. TV production by Partners Film (Fugitives directing), with Saints Editorial, Darling and OSO for post. Media by Epitaph and Zenith.

What: “Keep it Cheesy,” a new platform for Black Diamond’s Cheestrings brand built around the idea that Cheestrings have an inherent child-like quality to them. The launch campaign included a remarkably effective “classified ad” in Toronto’s Dundas Square.

When & Where: The campaign launched last week, with the billboard going up in Yonge-Dundas Square for three days beginning on Aug. 2. Other media includes TV, online and social video, as well outdoor posters and wild postings.

Why: Black Diamond marketing director Enrique Larez said that most of the marketing for Cheestrings has been around the brand mascot Cheesy, and the company worked with BHLA to develop a new strategy.

The insight for the brand platform is that Cheestrings “bring out the kid in everyone,” with the advertising focusing on the childhood tradition of trading lunchtime snacks.

“We all remember trading snacks like Cheestrings at school when we were kids,” said Broken Heart Love Affair creative director Jordan Hamer in a release.

How (I): The tradition of trading snacks was the inspiration for the billboard in Yonge-Dundas Square. “For Trade: One Cheestring,” said the headline over a picture of a single Cheestring.

“Accepting trades for one Cheestring. Marble flavour,” the ad continued. “Still in original packaging. No lowballs. I know what I have. 647-407-0938.” The phone number was real, and calls were answered by an actor who played the role of a “professional trader named Angel Domingo.”

The billboard ad generated a lot of attention, with traditional media falling for the stunt and reporting on the billboard as being authentic, and Angel Domingo a real person. In just a few days, the billboard earned coverage from media outlets including Narcity, CityTV, the New York Post, Breakfast Television, Global News and HuffPost, resulting in an estimated 213 million earned media impressions.

“Toronto’s Angel Domingo, 48, spent some serious coin to put up a large billboard at Yonge and Dundas Sts. for two weeks offering to trade a piece of Black Diamond cheese string in it plastic packaging,” reported the Toronto Sun.

“‘If my wife finds out how much I put into this, she’s going to kill me,’ Domingo told The Sun on Friday morning, unwilling to say what it cost him.” (See a video outlining the extensive media coverage of the event below.)

BHLA’s creative director Spencer Ryan told The Message they were “a little bit” surprised by how much media fell for it. “We tried to make the billboard as lo-fi as possible to keep them off the trail, and it’s just a pretty wild thing for a brand to do.

“We like to think that even if people suspected it was a brand stunt, they chose to play along because it’s fun.”

Based on the response, it seems like lots of people were willing to play along, with the ad generating more than 1,000 offers—from Shaquille O’Neal rookie cards to someone’s pregnant girlfriend.

How (II): Black Diamond is now claiming ownership of the “For Trade” billboard  through PR, while video ads of some of the trade offers are being used as paid social ads. There is also a new TV spot called “Lunch Trade,” based on the idea that Cheestrings make every day more playful.

The 30-second spot features office workers outdoing one another with increasingly outrageous trade offers for one Cheestring.

And we quote: “Cheestrings are fun,” said Larez in the release. “They represent happiness and silliness, and each peel is really an invitation for play. It gives us permission to bring out the kid in everyone… This is just the beginning of a transformational brand platform that will live on for years to come.”


David Brown