Debuting a new product comes with a slew of complications—even when it doesn’t happen in the midst of a pandemic. So to introduce its new cocoa flavor to consumers, organic cereal startup Three Wishes had to get creative.
When pondering how to market a flavor that co-founder Ian Wishingrad describes as truly chocolatey—the brand’s fourth flavor after honey, cinnamon and unsweetened—the first thing that popped into his mind was Willy Wonka.
Wishingrad, the host of Adweek’s I’m With the Brand and founder of creative agency Big Eyed Wish, grew up down the street from the original Wonka himself—the late Gene Wilder—in Stamford, Conn. As a longtime fan of the movie, Wishingrad said it didn’t take long to come up with the idea of a Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory cast reunion as a way to promote the new flavor.
But tracking down the actors wasn’t exactly a piece of cake. For starters, they’re scattered all over the globe: from Los Angeles to upstate New York to London to Germany.
Paris Themmen, who played Mike TeaVee and now lives in L.A., was the first cast member that Wishingrad successfully got in touch with. “The [initial] phone call turned to FaceTime and within five minutes, we were quickly best friends, and I was watching him feed squirrels in his backyard.”
It was Themmen, then, who helped Wishingrad get in touch with Peter Ostrum, who played the famous Charlie Bucket.
Ostrum, a 62-year-old farm veterinarian, lives off the grid in upstate New York these days, but with clear instructions from Themmen, Wishingrad was able to get in touch. While “he admitted he was very skeptical about how delicious a low sugar, high protein, grain-free cereal could be,” said Wishingrad, he was “pleasantly surprised” and requested a year’s supply for him and his family.
While Michael Boellner, who played Augustus Gloop, was uninterested in participating, Wishingrad was able to track down the actor who played Veruca Salt—the snobby, spoiled brat who got everything her daddy’s money could buy her.
Julie Dawn Cole, now a new grandmother living outside of London, loved the idea of testing out the cereal and reprising her role. She even wore a costume that matched Veruca’s for the take.