Psychiatrists are steeling themselves for a run on Prozac as distraught US shoppers demand medication to quell hallucinations that they are being harangued by margarine tubs.

This is not some form of collective delirium but the inexorable march of science culminating in the ultimate benefit for humankind – ConAgra Foods’ Parkay Talking Tub.

Backed by a campaign from Grey Worldwide, New York, the margarine promo will hit around 500 million shoppers across 10,000 stores, July 15 through August 11. Displays on dairy-case shelves will chorus: “The label says Parkay, the flavor says butter.” There will also be an instant-win game featuring similar voice chips within 15,000 product tubs.

The concept is not a new one. In the mid 90s, a number of instore displays, especially for cosmetic products, harnessed a similar technology. But, recalls Don Pettit, president/ceo of brand-identity specialist Sterling Group: “The risk became very clear: they can be very annoying for people standing in the aisle. It is an invasion of a shopper's space [unlike] a passive graphic display where you can have private interaction through a touch screen.”

Jon Kramer, ceo of Grey Worldwide sibling J Brown/LMC disagrees: “The Parkay [promo] is instore theater; it's a disrupter and the more intrusive you can be, the better off you are,” he said. “The opportunity to have your brand message articulated in the store is not only unique, but potentially a breakthrough.”

Voice (or motion-) activated chips are not cheap, Kramer concedes, “but compared to a commercial and the [gross rating] points you get with a primetime or daytime media buy, it isn't that expensive”.

Meantime, the instore and inpack vocal bandwagon is on a roll. An upcoming promotion from Nestlé children’s brand Willy Wonka Candy Factory will use a similar gizmo to tell consumers if they have won a family trip to an amusement park. The winning package will yell “Wonkaaaaa!”.

[But should the Swiss food and candy giant ever decide to export the Wonka promo to British shores, it would do well to ensure the chip enunciates its message with especial clarity.]

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff