It's Oatmeal Season and Quaker Is Getting Emotional

New 'Off You Go' Campaign Includes Coming-of-Age Ad

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Quaker is dialing down the energy and dialing up the emotion in a new ad that is breaking as oatmeal season begins.

The TV commercial, which begins airing on Monday, marks the beginning of a new campaign called "Off You Go" that seeks to make the point that "how we prepare ourselves for the day makes all the difference," according to the PepsiCo-owned brand. The effort marks the end of a campaign that had been running since early 2014 and had positioned the oatmeal brand as a way to fight the "human energy crisis" and used the "Quaker Up" tagline.

The new ad, by Energy BBDO of Chicago, shows a girl growing into a woman and includes moments like her running to a school bus and graduating from college -- with the Quaker brand scattered throughout, of course.

Joe Silverman, senior marketing director for Quaker Oats, said the brand was not moving away entirely from its oatmeal-as-energy pitch. But the new creative approach is meant to be more emotional and less functional, he said. Our goal "is to show consumers that Quaker can provide the ideal morning start, so that they and their families are prepared to make the most of what the day has in store," he said.

Suzanne Michaels, executive creative director for Energy BBDO, in a statement described how the "Off You Go" tagline was conceived: "Lots of us on the team are moms, myself included, and we find ourselves saying 'Off You Go' to our kids all the time. It's that final send-off after the mad scramble of the morning -- that moment of letting go after you've done your best to prepare them."

The campaign is getting an earlier start than usual. In recent years, Quaker has debuted its oatmeal campaigns in January in a move to "start the year fresh and to bring news," Mr. Silverman said. The September launch moves the campaign to the front end of oatmeal season, which is beginning in many markets as leaves begin to turn and a chill enters the air.

Media spending on the effort will remain "on par with previous campaigns we have launched," Mr. Silverman said. In 2014, Quaker spent $17 million across its portfolio, which includes granola bars, according to Kantar Media.

Of late, Quaker has outperformed the broader oatmeal/hot cereal category. Sales of all Quaker varieties in the U.S. grew 3.8% to $771 million, giving Quaker a dominant 58% share in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 9,, according to IRI. The next-closest branded competitor, B&G Foods (which sells Cream of Wheat), experienced a 3.4% decline during the period to $73 million in sales, according to IRI.

Quaker's weak spot was its Real Medleys variety -- which comes in cup form and includes pieces of fruit. Sales of Medleys hot cereal/oatmeal fell 16.3% to $42 million in the period, according to IRI. Quaker recently launched a Medleys variety that includes "super grains" like quinoa and flax, and early next year the brand will debut a steel cut Medleys offering, Mr. Silverman said. "We are still very excited about that product," he said.

The new "Off You Go" campaign is another example of what appears to be a growing creative trend of brands showcasing children growing up in the span of a single 30-second or 60-second ad.

Subaru, for example, is running this ad, called "Making Memories."

Wrigley's Extra a couple years ago debuted this ad called "Origami" (by Energy BBDO) that is still getting airtime:

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