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Thursday, Jan 31 2013 11:00 PM

We're nutty for this Super Bowl commercial

By The Bakersfield Californian

A Kern County megaproduct will be displayed on the world's largest advertising stage Sunday, and we're nutty with anticipation over how it might be received -- and what it might mean for future demand of an important local crop.

Agriculture giant Paramount Farms will air a 30-second spot during Sunday's Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers featuring Kern County-produced Wonderful brand pistachios. The ad will star South Korean music sensation Psy, clad in a pistachio-green tuxedo.

It ought to be fun to watch the Super Bowl ad, thought to the first time a Kern County product has been featured in this grand venue, but the impact should be anything but frivolous and transitory. Pistachios, and tree nuts in general, are big business in the Central Valley -- and getting bigger, despite some fits and starts, almost every year.

California produces 98 percent of the nation's pistachios, and Kern County is the crop's top-producing county, according to Ben McFarland of the Kern County Farm Bureau. Kern County's pistachio crop was ranked sixth in the county in 2011 at $389 million, down slightly from the 2010 record of $533 million.

And pistachios aren't even No. 1 among local nuts. In 2011, the county's almond harvest was valued at more than $725 million, making it Kern's second-biggest agricultural commodity, right behind milk. As of last year, some 147,000 acres were devoted to almonds in Kern County and 62,800 acres to pistachios. And tens of thousands of additional acres are tied up in walnuts and even some pecans.

That's a substantial commitment of land and resources -- a bet on the potential growth of tree nuts as a new favorite of the American snack palate. And when you're betting that big, it's best to go all-in. That's precisely what Paramount's parent company, Roll Global, seems to have done with this Super Bowl ad. Of course Roll Global is no stranger, or novice, to big-time advertising.

Owned by Southern California billionaire power players Stewart and Lynda Resnick, Roll seems to have little difficulty getting top names -- real and animated -- from pop culture to star in commercials for its products.

You might think Roll Global is nuts to spend $4 million on a 30-second ad. And maybe it is. But for those of us invested only with a sense of pride (as opposed to a financial interest), the Super Bowl plunge epitomizes the scope and power of Kern's ag industry. In the context of Roll Global's multibillion-dollar business holdings, $4 million is hardly excessive.

The intense worldwide attention paid to Super Bowl ads in general and this commercial in particular, thanks to Psy's rising star, ought to mean a great public relations boost for Kern agriculture. Why do we think the Wonderful Pistachio ad is going to play well on Super Bowl Sunday? For starters, Nielsen survey research shows that more than 80 percent of viewers say they like funny Super Bowl ads the most. Roll Global's "Get Crackin'" campaign is funny. More than 90 percent of Super Bowl viewers say they are interested in watching the game's ads. That should translate to about 100 million viewers. And Psy's popularity is enormous. His "Gangnam Style" video, which now has more than 1.2 billion views, is the most watched video in YouTube history.

We can't wait to see the final score. Oh, and the football game should be interesting, too.

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