70 Years Since Fred Meyer Outraged Many With ‘Free Baby’ Contest
As far as promotions go, Fred Meyer held a contest 70 years ago that not only confused a great deal of its Pacific Northwest customers, but managed to outrage a certain devout, segment of society.
I've heard of some outrageous publicity stunts in my day. Everything from Oprah giving away $8 million worth of Pontiacs to her studio audience in 2004, to the CEO of LifeLock baiting wood-be criminals by giving out his real social security in a nationally-aired commercial. But when it comes to retail marketing, offering a "free, healthy, two-month baby" up as part of a grand opening celebration, Fred Meyer managed to get a great deal of attention in the fall of 1941.
According to a seven-minute feature produced by KGW news, this week marked the 70th anniversary of the day Fred Meyer opened its store in Portland, Oregon, with the promise of giving away a free baby to a lucky husband and wife. Naturally, it upset many people who couldn't manage to wrap their heads around the obvious marketing scheme, and immediately made the assumption that the retail chain was indeed pawning off someone's child.
Maybe it had something to do with this anxiety-ridden time period, where war was in the country's mind, and many people perhaps weren't in the mood for playful acts of unmistakable branding. Apparently, Fred G. Meyer, who would go on to open more than 40 stores in the Pacific Northwest by 1968, had a more than ample sense of humor.
The, "free baby," turned out to be a bunny.