THE CEREAL PRIZE PROJECT: GROUP 014
(Cereals By Mail: Sprinkle Spangles & Hidden Treasures)
Sample-Sized Cereal Boxes!
(General Mills, 1994)
Additional Images: Sealed premium -- back. Came with coupons! Teaser for new cereals.
It doesn't happen often, but when it does, ooooh boy. Sample-sized boxes of cereal have long been given out either by mail, or like the ones we're going to see today, in Sunday newspapers. The Sunday papers are God's gift to people who like the idea of reading newspapers but can never move beyond the comic, puzzle and gossip sections. On Sundays, we finally get more than five minutes worth of entertainment by way of store circulars, strange offers for Franklin Mint coins and, God willing, the occasional free sample.
Free samples with newspapers, a simple concept that delights us to no end. In 1994, General Mills took a couple of huge ass gambles. First, they created two brand new cereals that totally broke the mold in ways that, arguably, cereals should never break. The standard advertising campaign was put together, but in addition, they moved forward with an even riskier venture -- they paid hundreds of gold bricks to get sample-sized boxes of these cereals delivered with the Sunday newspaper. I don't know how much something like that costs, but it's gotta be a lot more than getting a mere coupon page in there. Think of all the poor newspaper delivery boys, forced to add an extra step to the ugliest part of their entire workweek: Putting together the immense Sunday paper. Unless I'm mistaken, it's delivered by the trucks in parts, and it's up to the delivery people to put 'em together. I used to babysit a friend's route whenever he went on vacation, and I absolutely hated having to do this. Whether this would be reflected in what General Mills had to pay is something I cannot answer, but for whatever it's not worth, every effort to make these cereals stick absolutely flopped.
Grievances of newspaper delivery boys aside, how much fun is this? You're a kid. Your parents and older siblings can safely claim most of the newspaper, but nobody's going to fight you for a couple of sample-sized cereal boxes. They're all yours, just like the Junior Jumble. Folks, you can't eat the Junior Jumble. "Sprinkle Spangles" and "Hidden Treasures" were the new faces in town, and nobody really liked the new faces in town. Read on...
#056 - Sprinkle Spangles Cereal:
(General Mills, 1994)
Additional Images: Sealed baggie of cereal.
Sprinkle Spangles sought to capitalize on the still-strong popularity of Disney's Aladdin
, but I guess it's unfair to make such claims just based on the fact that the cereal was fronted by a strange-colored genie. A friendly purple genie did the shills, appearing both on the boxes and in at least one animated television commercial where he rhymed goofily to the delight of six or seven people total.
I prefer to think that the whole "genie motif" was played by then, and that it in itself was the cause for Sprinkle Spangles' pathetically short stay on grocery store shelves. There was probably a little more to it than that, though. The frosted, star-shaped corn puffs were adequate, but Mr. Mills also added these tiny, ball-shaped sprinkles on top. They're total confectionary sprinkles -- the kind you'd use to complete some gross, honey-soaked ethnic dessert that people can only stomach during the holidays. Not so much super sweet as they were super hard, the sprinkles were disgusting on cereal and even more disgusting in milk.
Interestingly enough, despite having no interest in Aladdin
or in genies at large, and despite knowing that the cereal really wasn't up my alley, I couldn't keep from trying out Sprinkle Spangles during its short run. The aquamarine box, with its zany fonts and twinkly twanks, was something that needed to work its way into my personal history. Didn't keep me from making "ewww" faces when I tried to eat it, but for about a week's worth of mornings, that freak ass shiny box helped my cruddy eyes focus after waking up.
It's typical. Kids take a shine to one damn genie, and suddenly there's a hundred usurpers rolling around in every form, from cartoons to toys to cereal mascots. In the one Sprinkle Spangles commercial I can remember, the genie did his best to sound like he'd shared a few lamps with Robin Williams. We glanced and maybe even glanced twice, but in no time at all, we went back to Honey Nut Cheerios.
#057 - Hidden Treasures Cereal:
(General Mills, 1994)
Additional Images: Back of cereal box.
General Mills tried hard to give Hidden Treasures a special sense of identity, but marketing a severely gimmicked cereal towards an older crowd is rarely a good idea. This time, the trick is that certain pieces of the wholesome oat squares contained various fruit-flavored centers -- hard, jelly-like blobs in cherry, orange and grape. The rest of the squares had naked insides, and unless you were going to sit at the table biting each individual piece in half, the gimmick was a huge waste of time. Plus, the pieces that had fruity centers never seemed too remarkably different from the "normals," and in the long line of edible treasure hunts, this bitch can't hold a candy candle to Dum-Dum's mystery lollipop. It's not even close.
Most fruit-flavored cereals boast "real fruit juice" as an ingredient, but with Hidden Treasures, it's worded in such a way that we're forced to believe that the evil robots in General Mills' underground factory meticulously added orange juice to the things, drip by drip. Depending on how you view this, that false belief brings either pleasure or mucho disgust.
With a cereal so obviously meant for kids, it's easy to see why the box art seen waaaay up there wouldn't cut it. Indeed, General Mills later revamped the brand with a robot mascot and more futuristic box graphics. While I appreciate the effort of coming up with a completely generic robot character, it totally didn't fit the style of the food. Hidden Treasures barely lasted a year before General Mills pulled the plug.
Both Sprinkle Spangles and Hidden Treasures flopped, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Judging from the many memories of breakfast-eating folks I've read online, both have their share of fans -- the kind of fans who pioneer fruitless online petitions, obliviously to the fact that huge corporations aren't about refinance proven failures just because a few electronic signatures from South Park
characters and "MIKE FROM AK" suggest it. These stupid little memories we share and love so much wouldn't be worth as much if the basis of 'em were still so easily found today. Cereal isn't always sweet enough; sometimes, it's good to let Father Time sweeten it a little bit more.