When Stan Freberg introduced satire into the field of advertising, he revolutionized the entire industry.
Yet, to hear him talk about the pitted prune commercial he created for Sunsweet in 1967 — it was all about solving a marketing difficulty.
According to the Madison Avenue guru, his clients’ ardor for their own product had so removed them from the realm of reality, their big plan for stepping up sales was printing instructions for stuffing prunes with whole almonds on the side of the box.
“Gentlemen,” interrupted Freberg, in an attempt to disabuse the executives of the obvious fallacy in their logic, “America is a long way from prune hors d’oeuvres.”
The problem, as Freberg saw it, was not what housewives could do with the boxes of prunes already sitting on their pantry shelves. There were no prunes sitting on their pantry shelves. Why not? Nobody, it seems, but the desperately constipated purchased prunes on a regular basis.
Freberg’s resulting 30-second seduction, which featured British actor Ronald Long as a finicky prune critic, not only increased awareness of the Sunsweet brand but also earned Freberg one of his 21 Clio awards.
The powers that be at the Port of Hueneme are likewise wagering that their Second Annual Banana Festival on Sept. 28 will also raise awareness of their brand. Unfortunately, the existence of a deep-water harbor in Ventura County’s own backyard is one of the best-kept secrets around.
The idea for a festival celebrating the musa sapientum (banana) was the brainchild of former Port Commissioner Jesse Ramirez — a notion he had been kicking around for two decades before being brought to fruition on Sept. 29, 2012.
While the Port of Hueneme could have chosen to celebrate liquid fertilizer, heavy agricultural equipment or the plethora of automobiles (Mazda, BMW, Mini Cooper, Rolls-Royce, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo, Saab, Hyundai and Kia) welcomed at Hueneme, “bananas,” Port Executive Director Kristin Decas told The Star, “we felt were sort of something that people could relate to.”
I should hope so. The average American consumes 27 pounds of bananas each year.
Initially, back in 1979, it was only Del Monte Fresh that opted to locate its West Coast distribution hub at the Port of Hueneme. Yet, once Pacific Fruit and Chiquita Fresh also arrived on the scene, more than 600,000 metric tons of bananas started coming here from Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Not only do bananas constitute nearly a third of the port’s business but Hueneme has also become one of the busiest banana gateways in the entire nation.
“You are standing or sitting in one of California’s primary economic resources,” Port Commissioner Jess Herrera informed festivalgoers last year. “All this property you’re standing on has been acquired through time, through money, through effort and through no cost to this community or Ventura County. We’re very proud of that.”
Indeed, the Port of Hueneme, which handles cargo valued at $7 billion a year, is not only the second largest employer in the area but also claims to impact the regional economy to the tune of more than $700 million a year.
Visitors to the 2013 Banana Festival can expect to divide their time among sampling banana-based foods and beverages, tapping their feet to the music of local bands, being transported on organized tours of the port or shopping at the Vendor Marketplace.
This year, the Saturday event also features a Kids’ Zone where offspring can expend energy while exploring a climbing wall, getting creative with banana crafts, enjoying tons of inflatable fun in a bounce house, meeting animals courtesy of the Reptile Family and participating in an interactive experience from Gull Wings Children’s Museum.
The Friends of the Port Hueneme Library, inspired by last year’s festival, researched and tested 139 recipes for their “Going Bananas! Cookbook.” While they haven’t forgotten your favorite banana beverages, desserts or breakfast fare, these “don’t like to fuss much” cooks also included easy main dishes from Central and South America as well. Donations for the book are tax-deductible and support children’s programs at the Prueter Library.
Finally, not only is admission free at the event but Chuck Caulkins, port manager for Del Monte, reported that last year his company gave away more than 5,000 bananas, 1,000 leis and innumerable chunks of pineapple.
Freberg’s tag line for his pitted prune commercial was “Today the pits ... tomorrow the wrinkles. Sunsweet marches on.”
What you probably don’t realize about the humble banana is that in addition to being a rich source of vitamin B-6 and potassium, you can use the inside of the peel to erase those pesky facial wrinkles that accumulate as time marches on. What? You say that last factoid isn’t actually true? Now, that’s the pits!