NEW YORK — Kraft Foods is freshening up the image of its Jell-O brand by pairing up with an old friend.
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Comedian Bill Cosby joins the gelatin and pudding brand again after a 10-year hiatus, but this time he'll be behind the camera as part of the brand's biggest marketing effort ever.
The comedian, whose work with Jell-O dates to 1974, will be an executive producer for the "Hello Jell-O" campaign, which starts with national advertisements on Monday. In return, Jell-O will be the presenting sponsor of Cosby's new weekly Web series called "OBKB." On the show he interviews children in the style of the classic show "Kids Say the Darndest Things."
"You watch TV, all these reality shows and profanity and things like that, we need to show the heart and the laughter that children have," he said in an interview.
Cosby last appeared in a Jell-O ad in 1999, but still hears from people about the pairing and from adults who starred with him as children. He and Jell-O decided he would be behind the scenes in the new campaign.
Cosby will help kick off a 22-city tour next month in Los Angeles to find the country's best giggle, which will be featured in a television ad. He'll also do radio interviews to promote the tour, said Cindy Chen, director of Jell-O for Kraft.
The first of the 10-minute episodes of "OBKB" will air May 31 on Cosby's Ustream channel, www.ustream.tv/billcosby. The title comes from how the friend he modeled the character "Mush Mouth" on says "okay."
Jell-O's multimillion-dollar campaign is its biggest ever. It's also updating its logo with a smiling, new face that will appear on print, online and in TV ads that show people disrupting everyday activities such as work with cups of Jell-O.
Kraft, based in Northfield, Ill., is trying to breathe new life into the gelatin and pudding market, which it dominates. Shoppers are switching from branded products to store brands and skimping on purchases to save money. Sales volume fell more than 6 percent each for Jell-O gelatin and pudding in the 52-week period ending in mid-April, excluding sales in Wal-Mart and club stores, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm.
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