Altoids takes to TV with spots for Sours

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Altoids, marketed by Kraft Foods' Callard & Bowser-Suchard unit, will this August take to the airwaves for the first time since its 1995 U.S. debut to gain attention for its recently launched hard candy, Altoids Sours.

The move is a big one for the brand, a 200-year-old English mint turned American icon through quirky images and one-liners on building-side murals and in carefully targeted print.

"[Moving into hard candy] is a big change, and we thought, `How do we take the next step?' The next step is broadcast," said Andrew Burke, senior brand manager, Altoids. Mr. Burke was quick to point out that the use of TV for Sours does not necessarily mean TV will be an element of future campaigns for the core Altoids brand or other extensions. "This was the right idea for this program at this time," he said. "We just thought that this could elevate this campaign, grab some eyeballs and surprise people."

hitting core target

But the shift, he said, is indicative of a change in the medium that allows for a niche brand to use it successfully.

"What's happened in cable is that you're able to winnow down to your core target, like magazines have done," Mr. Burke said. For Altoids, whose annual $13 million print and outdoor buys have heretofore sought to reach "culturally aware influencers," the TV buy is, he said, "far from traditional" with buys of "good-content shows" on networks like Viacom's MTV and VH1, Walt Disney Co.'s E! Entertainment and Rainbow Media Holdings' Bravo.

"The biggest reason not to [use TV] was the fear of going mainstream," said Steffan Postaer, chief creative officer of LBWorks, a unit of Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett, Chicago, which handles Altoids. But, he said, with Ozzy Osbourne now a TV mainstay, "all bets are off. ... Why not put better communication into that stream?"

The Sours campaign, like the 1999 launch of Cinnamon Altoids with a sexy siren named "Sindy," teases consumers to sign on to a Web site,, where they can see mini-films featuring the brand. The central theme behind the three films (15-second unbranded versions of which will appear on TV during August) is that "Your Altoids are changing like your body changes," Mr. Postaer said. In the form of a yearbook dubbed "Metamorphases '74," the Web site features old-school-style educational videos dubbed, "Sex-ed," "Science Class" and "Health Class" that integrate the round silver tins of Altoids Sours in Citrus and Tangerine.

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