The Big Idaho Potato Truck came home in a way to Santa Barbara on July 10.
Santa Barbara-based marketing agency Evans, Hardy and Young represents the Idaho Potato Commission. As the truck stopped in Santa Barbara, gawkers in the crowd snapped photos and took selfies at the sight of the 22-ton behemoth.
Attendees at the event chomped on Burger Bus burgers, drank beers in the sun and even nibbled on the french fries made from the Big Idaho Potato’s smaller cousins.
“Our company has been working intimately with their company for a long time,” said Scott Young, executive vice president and creative director. “And they just decided that it would be a nice thing to do to come up and say hi.”
Young said only a handful of employees at the office had seen the truck, which is based out of Eagle, Idaho. The entities have a great relationship, and Young said EH+Y has represented the Idaho Potato Commission for almost 20 years.
“It’s a big account,” Young said. “They do lots of other things. They advertise in retail and food service areas. We have lots of digital advertising for them.”
A challenge to drive
So how do you drive a 72-foot potato around the country? Very carefully, said driver Phyllis Johnson, and with a lot of planning.
“We get a permit from whatever city or state we’re going through and it tells us what roads we can go on,” Johnson said. “We’re here in California, and I think there’s four or five different permits.”
Johnson also said that the potato truck often can’t drive during rush hour times like 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The team even needed separate permits just to bring the truck from Pasadena to Santa Barbara and then to get it to their hotel in Carpinteria.
Despite being a phenomenal promotional vehicle, Young said the truck is a lot of work.
“You can’t just drive a truck like that anywhere you know,” Young said. “Even bringing it here to show it to us was a fairly big deal.”
A new trend?
The 72-foot long truck tours the country from April through the beginning of September. The Boise, Idaho-based Idaho Potato Commission created the truck for its 75th anniversary in 2011.
It was the latest of several recently created food promotional vehicles. People love taking pictures of the unique vehicles, which often generate positive social media buzz.
The granddaddy of food promotional vehicles is, of course, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, which was created by Carl G. Meyer in 1936. Two weinermobiles built in 2004 and 2008 were constructed by Santa Barbara-based Prototype Source.
In 2008, Just Born Candy Co. created the Peepmobile, which is a yellow Volkswagen Bug with a Peep on top, to promote the easter candy. In 2011, Kraft-owned Planters unveiled the Nutmobile, which runs on biodiesel and tours 16 cities across the U.S.
In 2012, two additions were made to the club. That year L.L. Bean unveiled its giant boot-shaped car dubbed the Bootmobile. Lindt Chocolates also created the Lindt Chocolate Bunny car.
In 2012, the first Art Campout was held, where the Bootmobile, Peepmobile, Weinermobile and chocolate bunny car gathered.
On June 12, 2014, the craze went to the next level. The Big Idaho Potato Truck got married to the Omaha Steak Truck in Nebraska that involved plenty of horn honking, and even a cake.
“We weren’t looking to build a truck,” Young said. “We were looking to celebrate an anniversary in a big way.”
Big Idaho Potato Brand Ambassador Adam Branstetter is on the three-man crew for the tour. His job is to tell people all about where he says the best potatoes in the U.S. come from.
Branstetter said he doesn’t think more giant promotional vehicles will be on the roads soon.
“I’ve never seen anyone with a frown on their face when they see our vehicle,” Bransetter said. “I don’t see it being a huge thing as far as a bunch of them popping up, but I don’t see the ones that are out going away any time soon.”