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Spanish olive oil lights up Times Square

A new campaign seeks to raise awareness about the product in the US, where people think of it as Italian or Greek

An ad promoting Spanish olive oil in Times Square.
An ad promoting Spanish olive oil in Times Square.

A campaign to promote Spanish olive oil is underway in one of the most emblematic spots in the world. Times Square in New York City will help raise awareness about a product that is increasingly being consumed across the United States, but which consumers know little about.

Besides boosting demand, the campaign seeks to change deep-rooted perceptions that olive oil is either Italian or Greek.

The campaign is the brainchild of Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español, an umbrella group of eight industry associations, and Havas Media Group.

Spain, the top producer

Susana Urra

Spain is the world’s top producer of olive oil. The Interprofesional del Aceite de Oliva Español notes that average production in the last six seasons was over 1.3 million tons in Spain, compared with 447,700 in Italy. This group also says that Italian oil is almost entirely reserved for domestic consumption, and that most of the oil that Italy exports is in fact Spanish in origin.

A recent study by GEA Iberia forecast that Spain will be responsible for half of the world’s olive oil production in the 2016/2017 season, the financial newspaper Expansión reported.

The Andalusian province of Jaén, with around 550,000 hectares of olive groves and over 66 million olive trees, is Spain’s top producer. The industry association Esencia de Olivo notes that “Jaén produces more oil than the world’s second producing nation, Italy.”

Teresa Pérez, who is in charge of the advertising strategy, says that the US is “a great amplifier” that will help reach other world markets, and that Times Square is a privileged location to sell their product.

The ads are running for 15 to 30 seconds on four of the large screens that light up the square, coinciding with the US Open tennis tournament. One of the ads shows up on the Nasdaq screen, another one covers Reuters headquarters and two more look out over the northern end of the square.

Figures show that Spanish-produced olive oil is already selling very well in the US, says Susana Ketterer at the trade office in New York. In the first half of the year, the US imported 69,600 tons of Spanish olive oil, representing over 40% of the total.

“The hard part is changing the image,” she says. “Many consumers do not know that Spain makes oil. That is why we want to show them where it is born.”

Ketterer says this is the first step in a larger effort to educate the public by building a global brand for Spanish olive oil. This will enable the product to be better positioned in stores.

Producers are also trying to reach a younger consumer who is concerned by product quality and pays attention to the history behind each food product.

“If there is a demand, you get better placement at the supermarket,” notes Alejandro Saracho, of Havas Media Group. “That is why we have to show them that Spanish olive oil is the best oil there is.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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