Jerry Seinfeld has spent decades eating and writing jokes about Pop-Tarts. 

The comedian’s bit goes something like this: Pop-Tarts are so delicious that he questions why any other types of foods continue to exist. “Mom, what are you doing?” he yells, channeling his youthful aggression. “Don’t you see that it’s over?” With two Pop-Tarts encased in each pack, he reasons that the treat perfectly matches a two-slot toaster. “Why two? One is not enough, three is too many,” he joked in 2012.

“And they can’t go stale because they were never fresh.”

Seinfeld previously told the New York Times that he had been working on his Pop-Tarts joke for two years, compared to just a few days for most bits in his comedy act. His latest ode to Pop-Tarts is the Netflix film, Unfrosted, which debuts on the streaming service on May 3. Seinfeld directed, cowrote, and costars in the film alongside Hugh Grant and Melissa McCarthy, focusing on a rivalry between cereal giants Kellogg’s and Post Holdings to create a sugary, shelf-stable pastry meant for breakfast. 

The film is billed as a comedy. And Pop-Tarts is counting on laughing along with the jokes. 

Despite having no involvement in the making of Unfrosted, Pop-Tarts current corporate owner, Kellanova, is building an entire marketing campaign timed to celebrate its release, including a digital ad starring and written by Seinfeld that will be shared on social and digital channels. Pop-Tarts will also launch a sweepstakes to win limited-edition Pop-Tarts boxes that feature packaging from the film and promote the connection to Unfrosted online and in retail stores. 

[Photo: Pop-Tarts]

“Jerry is probably our biggest fan,” says Oli Morton, general manager of portable wholesome snacks at Kellanova, which also makes Cheez-It and Pringles. “There’s a piece here as a brand owner about stepping into that with trust.” 

What’s the deal with product placement?

It is a bit of a risk for a brand like Pop-Tarts to build an entire marketing campaign around a film that the company wasn’t involved in producing and that few executives have even seen. Exercise equipment maker Peloton similarly wasn’t in the loop on the script of HBO’s And Just Like That, the successor to the popular Sex and the City series. After the show depicted a major character dying after riding on one of Peloton’s bikes, the company’s stock price dropped.

Conversely, Mattel scored a big hit with Barbie, last year’s top-grossing film and a contender for best picture Oscar. (It lost to Oppenheimer.) But in that case, the toy maker was closely involved in the project.

“We’ve not been involved in the making of the film,” says Morton. “But our goal is to help fans engage with the film and, really importantly, enjoy a Pop-Tart in hand when they’re watching the film.”

While Kellanova has no involvement in the film, it is clear through Seinfeld’s style of humor that the comedian is poking fun at Pop-Tarts lovingly. “The whole emphasis of those jokes has always been that he absolutely adores and loves the brand,” says Morton.

Lately, Pop-Tarts has embraced an irreverent, almost deranged tone in the brand’s approach to marketing. The breakfast pastry, which turns 60 this year, happens to be having a bit of a cultural resurgence. In March, the brand generated headlines after it was revealed that pop star Taylor Swift had crafted homemade Pop-Tarts for the Kansas City Chiefs, the winners of the Super Bowl thanks, in part, to Swift’s boyfriend, Travis Kelce. Pop-Tarts called on the Grammy-winner to share her recipe. (She never did.)

And late last year, college football’s Pop-Tarts Bowl featured a mascot, called Strawberry, that was thrilled to be sacrificed into a large toaster on the field and devoured by the winning team. The spot generated $12.1 million in media exposure.

[Photo: Pop-Tarts]

Toast of the town

Kellanova shared that Google search results for Pop-Tarts were seven times higher than the prior week when the edible mascot debuted. The brand earned 15 times more media mentions than any other non-Kellanova-brand-sponsored bowl, according to data from consumer-intelligence platform Talkwalker.

“We certainly built some star factor with our mascot,” says Julie Bowerman, Kellanova’s chief marketing officer. Bowerman said the Pop-Tarts Bowl campaign broke company records in terms of impressions on social media.

The edible Pop-Tarts mascot costars alongside Seinfeld in the ad spot that Kellanova is debuting today. In the digital short, the actor is admonished by Kellanova executives for trademark infringement with the film, Unfrosted. And with Pop-Tarts hosting another college bowl in December, Kellanova says it won’t be the last time that the character is featured this year.

“We cannot act like a big brand,” says Morton, of Kellanova’s marketing approach. “There’s a lot more pressure on us now.”

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