The Maine potato industry got an unexpected prime–time plug Sunday night when Homer Simpson, America’s most famous cartoon glutton, endorsed the state’s spuds.

In a subplot that had Homer’s bountiful body sporting tattoo advertisements for various products, “Eat Maine Potatoes” was stamped across one arm.

Homer, who was in bed, told his blue–tower–haired wife, Marge, that the tater reference wasn’t an ad, but a reminder. He then reached over the edge of bed into a bag of –– yup, “Maine Potatoes” –– and started munching on one.

The whole potato–related gag only lasted about 4 seconds.

But according to Fox, the network that runs The Simpsons, about 9.7 million viewers in the 18 to 49–year–old range saw the new episode, which ran from 8 to 8:30 p.m.

You can’t buy advertising like that.


Well, in this age of increased product placement, maybe you can. But Maine Potato Board Executive Director Donald E. Flannery insisted his promotional group had nothing to do with the animated plug.

“No, no, nope. No –– it’s nothing we paid for,” said Flannery, laughing. “We never had anything to do with that. I guess I’m going to have to get a copy of it.”

Asked about why The Simpsons featured what was basically an ad for Maine potatoes, Fox spokesperson Jill Hudson provided a quote from Simpsons Executive Producer Al Jean: “All of the Simpsons writers are huge fans of Maine potatoes.”

Flannery said he’s only seen one episode of The Simpsons, so he wasn’t exactly sure about what kind of audience would have viewed the scene. But there’s bound to be some benefit –– however unquantifiable, he said.

“Any time you can get that kind of recognition for any product, it’s substantial,” said Flannery. “People who never heard of a Maine potato will say, ‘Geez –– Maine has potatoes.'”

Flannery said the industry–funded potato board has a total budget of less than $1 million; about $200,000 of that goes to advertising in regional mediums. Other, bigger producer states like Washington will spend about $8 million plugging their spuds, he said.

University of Southern Maine marketing Professor Nancy Artz said “absolutely there’s a benefit to Maine potatoes.” This particular instance is different from classical product placement, in that a certain brand wasn’t used.

“They picked an iconic product,” said Artz. “You think potatoes and you either think Maine or Idaho.”

Comments are not available on this story.