Something Exhilarating Happening in Your Life? Chew Gum

Wrigley 5 Aims to Lift Sales With 'Life Happens in 5' Campaign

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Wrigley's 5 gum for years has been asking consumers to "Stimulate Your Senses." Its highly produced ads were often set in futuristic surroundings meant to dramatize the ordinary act of chewing by linking it to heart-pounding experiences.

But with sales slumping, the thrill appears to be gone. And now the marketer is changing things up with new ads that include skinny-dipping teenagers, young love and a ballerina -- all backed by the tagline "Life Happens in 5."

The push by Energy BBDO retains the polished feel of the old campaign. But the ads take the brand into a more emotional -- and less functional -- direction. Instead of touting the tingling, warming or cooling sensations of its various flavors, the gum is seen as a part of exhilarating moments of teenage chewers.

"We saw an opportunity to evolve the 5 gum positioning in order to stay relevant and be more relatable to a broad consumer audience, and among teens in particular, ultimately creating a stronger connection to the brand," John Starkey, VP-gum and mints at Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., said in an email interview. "When 5 gum first launched, the brand and its creative really stood out in the gum category," he added. But "we felt it was time for the creative story to progress."

In one ad, a female ballerina chews the gum just before she takes the stage, her heart racing. Another spot (above) shows a male teen chewing the gum just before he jumps in the pool as he looks to be stripping down to nothing. In another ad (below) the gum plays a central role in a teenage kiss.

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The ads seek to "capture the feeling you get the moment before you are going to do something exhilarating. The idea that 'Life Happens in 5' suggests that there are five seconds before you step into the unknown, before you try something new, take a chance and escape your comfort zone," Mark Taylor, chief creative officer at Energy BBDO, said in a statement.

Wrigley 5 was a gum game-changer when it first launched in 2007. The brand's sleek packaging and unusual flavor names -- like Cobalt and Rain -- gained attention and fueled lasting growth. In 2011 Ad Age named 5 one of "America's Hottest Brands," noting that sales were growing at a double-digit rate.

But sales have declined the past two years, including dropping from $262.3 million in 2013 to $254.8 million in 2014, according to Euromonitor International, which estimates the gum has about 9% market share in the sugarless segment.

Part of the problem is that gum as a category is less popular with young adult chewers, who have long been a key target. "It's just not exactly a hot product with younger consumers and millennials," said Jared Koerten, a senior food analyst for Euromonitor. Mints and savory snacks like beef jerky seem to be stealing gum's thunder, he said.

As a result, most gum brands have been stuck in a long-running slump. Sugarless gum category sales in the U.S. fell 2.3% to $2.6 billion in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 25, according to IRI.

Wrigley's Mr. Starkey said that "while we have experienced declines in the gum category and on this brand, we have seen improvements in the last year. Wrigley, as the category leader, is committed to restoring the category to sustainable growth."

He added: "We know that teens and young adults have been chewing less gum than in previous years, so we're focused on getting the right products in the right format in every channel and ensuring we're supporting our brands with relevant marketing."

Wrigley spent $42.7 million in measured media on 5 gum in 2014, up slightly from $40.1 million the year prior, according to Kantar Media. Mr. Starkey declined to reveal spending plans this year but noted that "5 gum is a major focus for us and as one of our biggest brands, we are supporting it accordingly."

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