publixhummingbird_web.jpgPerhaps it’s the tropical climate. Or maybe it’s the proximity. Whatever it is, numerous Caribbean nationals are now calling South Florida their home.

To recognize the heritage of some island natives, Publix Supermarkets is continuing a special advertising initiative that honors Independence Day in the Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.

“A large part of our consumer base in South Florida is made up of customers from the West Indies. We respect and appreciate that they are extremely proud of their home country’s culture and history,’’ said Kimberly Jaeger, Publix manager of Media and Community Relations. “In our effort to celebrate this consumer, we wanted to highlight each island’s Independence Day as we know it is a time for cooking, celebration and reflection.  This ad campaign celebrates the rich heritage of each island through foods that are a part of their culinary customs and available at Publix.’’ 

The new “Icons” campaign is the second installation of a series that began in 2006 and highlights national icons from each island. Tagged “a culture so rich you can taste it,” the ads were created using more than 400 individual photographs of fresh produce.

The ads appear in local Caribbean and African-American publications.

“All the produce, the plants, fruits, seasonings and spices, shot in the ads came directly from Publix.  We viewed items to determine what food would best look like the many parts of the icon.  Once this was determined, photos were taken and then each icon was composed,” Jaeger said

Luscious produce was used during the six-month process. A creative team of photographers, digital artists and food stylists from Matlock Advertising & Public Relations in Atlanta, Georgia crafted the ads so people would get hungry when they looked at them, said Tobi Carvana-Moore, associate creative director at Matlock.

“We understand Publix’s commitment to this consumer’s passion for culture and country and the importance of developing messaging that celebrates them,” Carvana-Moore said. “With this, we wanted something that would deeply resonate with this particular consumer, but also was something every Publix customer could enjoy.”

The store launched two of the ads last August. The first commemorated Jamaica’s Independence Day on Aug. 6 with the island’s national bird, the Doctor Bird, which is believed to have healing powers. In the ad, the humming bird is created with a carrot beak, an avocado head, a passion fruit eye, a body of plantains and bananas, with a long, green onion tail.

The other ad celebrated Trinidad and Tobago’s Aug. 31 Independence Day as well as the island’s enthrallment with carnivals. It features two attractive women in carnival array adorned with headdresses made of aloe, lettuce, pineapple and bold colors of sliced oranges, limes and berries. The women’s faces are made up with the vibrant and compelling colors of cocoa powder and cinnamon eye shadow; eyebrows formed with brown rice; vanilla, kidney and coffee bean eyes, and “hot” lips shaped with chili peppers.

The campaign will run through 2009 in conjunction with the independence days of the other islands. According to Carvana-Moore, a conch shell will be created for the Bahamas, a flying fish for Barbados, and an elaborately decorated tap-tap bus will represent Haiti.

“Someone is working hard at Publix and understands the importance of cultural nuances within American culture,” said attorney Marlon Hill of the Jamaican Diaspora Southern United States, and a member of the Caribbean Bar Association, which awarded Publix its  2007 Corporate Citizen award. “Other companies should take note.”

In the first series of ads, named “Flags,” each of the islands’ flags were created with favorite island produce and featured a bit of the island’s history and the date of its independence.

Publix currently has 941 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, and has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to work for in America for 11 consecutive years.

The latest ad campaign speaks to the company’s ability to recognize the diversity in the community around its stores. 

“We wanted to do something that resonated with our West Indian customer and reminded them of home because we realize their passion and affinity to their culture and native country,’’ Jaeger said. “Therefore, we launched both campaigns as our way of celebrating their rich heritage. All of our customers can enjoy these beautiful ads.’’