Extreme, baby! Carrots.

The new website at babycarrots.com is so extreme that my current version of Flash can’t handle it.

Yes, you read that correctly: baby carrots.

The crunchy, innocuous little orange vegetables are taking a walk on the edgy side with a new advertising campaign designed to give them the same coolness factor as junk food. Yes, you read that correctly: junk food.

The Associated Press reports:

A group of 50 producers hopes the “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” effort starting [this] week will double the $1 billion market in two or three years.

The goal is to get people to think of baby carrots as a brand they can get excited about – not just a plain, old vegetable. A website, http://babycarrots.com, features metal music and deep male voices chanting, “Baby. Carrots. Extreme.” On social networking site Twitter, the campaign’s account suggests people eat them “like there’s no tomorrow (maybe there won’t be…)”

“This campaign is about turning baby carrots into a brand,” said Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms, the nation’s top baby carrot producer with 50 percent of the market, and the most to gain if the market grows. “We think ultimately long-term here we’re going to turn it into a very vital brand in the mind of consumers.”

Who knew? I’ve always thought baby carrots were sorta cute, when all along it seems they’ve been yearning to unleash their inner badness.

The $25 million ad campaign, we’re told, will include billboards with the message “Our crunch can beat up your crunch” and colorful crinkly packaging that resembles potato-chip bags. A recently launched page on Facebook already has nearly 1,000 fans and invites the rest of the world, “You already love baby carrots; the only thing left to do now is like us.”

OK, so it’s an advertising campaign whose ultimate goal is to sell more baby carrots. But you have to admit it’s inspired, if not outright ingenious, in the way it taps into American attitudes about food. I mean, think about it: Maybe our subliminal messages with food have been completely wrong. Part of the appeal of junk food, after all, is how it’s packaged and marketed as something that’s fun and exciting to consume. When’s the last time you saw the words “fun” and “exciting” in the same sentence with the word “vegetable”? We’re urged to eat vegetables mainly because they’re good for us. Reverse psychology being what it is, how can vegetables be expected to compete when they’re seen as boringly healthful?

It’ll be interesting to see whether this campaign is successful in transforming the image of baby carrots into something cool and desirable. Perhaps a similar approach could be taken with some of the duller members of the vegetable family – beets, for instance, or cabbage. Eat ‘em like junk food; they’re good for you.

Photo courtesy of Crispin Porter + Bogusky

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