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BREAKFAST CEREAL COMPANY CREATES PUBLICITY 'PLUG' - 13/07/2002

...Literally. A man-made three-pinned 'electrical plug' crop formation might not sound like an advert for a breakfast cereal. However, this is what Weetabix apparently commissioned for use in their advertising campaigns. Many companies have used crop circles in their PR, but Weetabix have gone the whole hog, cryptically promoting their planked effort with full 'spin', as MARCUS ALLEN reports...


It was just another e-mail about "a cryptic crop circle", sent to me at 'Nexus Magazine' by one Alex Shaw, who said he was a paranormal expert. The attachment would not open so it got trashed.

Two days later, a printed picture of this crop circle arrived in the post from the same Alex Shaw with a write-up in which he tried hard to appear amazed at having discovered a particular formation in Wiltshire. Everything about it was just a little too professional....

I e-mailed him and was told that he and his partner Sarah "tour the country investigating the paranormal", but only "when their normal jobs allow". And, no, he had not written anything yet.

Whatever the mystery, the formation he had contacted me about, which looked vaguely like your average three-pin electric plug, certainly existed somewhere near Beckhampton. A few phone calls later, it was identified as part of a promotion for Weetabix - 'the energy provider' (geddit!).

It was apparently made by a team of plankers (reportedly 'Team Satan', who say, interestingly and hardly impressively considering the wobbliness of the lettering, "The formation was made over several days and took a total of 16 hours to complete. It must rate as the most complex formation we've ever been asked to create") and photographed from a microlight. Assuming this team of plankers is not a charity, they were paid, by all accounts quite well, as was the farmer David Hughes.

Then another e-mail. This time from a PR company who list Weetabix as one of their clients. Apart from extolling the wonders of Weetabix, they go into PR-speak (ie. spin) about how amazed they are at the reaction to their formation, quoting the farmer and the Commercial Director of Weetabix:

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WEETABIX - TOP OF THE CROPS!

Weetabix, one of the nation's favourite cereals, has owned up to producing the amazing crop circle in Beckhampton, Wiltshire, following unexpected interest in the overnight phenomenon.

The large symbol, covering two acres of wheat field, was created to mimic the latest advertising campaign, which features three Weetabix placed together to represent a power plug. However, when locals, tourists and press started to question the origin of the crop circle, and Supernatural experts were brought in to investigate the situation, Weetabix decided to own up to the mystery and have subsequently placed the Weetabix logo underneath it!

David Hughes, owner of the farm land, comments: "I have been totally flooded with visitors who have travelled from afar to investigate the image. Most people accept that it is from Weetabix, but rather oddly, some of the sci-fi experts still think that it is a message from beyond!"

The crop circle has already stirred up great interest in national and local press, as well as the online media, with the image being featured in sci-fi related websites already!

Bill Humes, Commercial Director of Weetabix comments: "The intention of the crop circle was to complement the latest advertising campaign, which positions Weetabix as an energy provider.

"However, the interest we have received has been totally unprecedented. Since announcing that we are responsible for the crop circle, our phone lines have been inundated with requests for images and information on it - it really has been positively overwhelming!"

To have a look at the crop circle, go to www.weetabix.co.uk and click on 'Crop Circle'.

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For several days the promised pictures did not appear on either the Weetabix website nor that of the PR company. Apparently just 'technical problems' was the response to an enquiring e-mail. The images were eventually uploaded.

As a lesson in bandwagon jumping, this stunt is good. It demonstrates how the power of crop circles to intrigue us and get our attention continues unabated. If just a few people were aware of crop circles, then Weetabix and their PR people would not bother spending money to hire plankers and farmers.

The crop circle is a modern icon of mystery, whose meaning is forever just beyond our grasp, unlike Weetabix.

MARCUS ALLEN

 

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