DDB WINS MAKEOVER BID FROM HEINZ: WEIGHT WATCHERS' SMART ONES TO BE BACKED BY $10 MIL

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H.J. Heinz Co., trying to reinvent itself in a struggling diet food category, has awarded its Smart Ones frozen entrees to DDB Needham Worldwide, San Francisco.

Heinz has said it will spend $10 million advertising the Weight Watchers International line, a big jump from the $320,000 in measured media recorded by Competitive Media Reporting in 1997. The Smart Ones review included Bozell Worldwide and incumbent Jordan McGrath Case & Partners, both New York.

Ken Dudwick, managing partner at DDB Needham, said the agency will serve up a TV and print effort primarily centered on lifestyle, rather than focusing on Smart Ones as a "diet" food. "Eating smart has become a lifestyle kind of thing," he said.

Indeed, the growth curve is declining for "diet" foods, leading companies such as Nabisco Biscuit Co. to reposition its SnackWell's cookie and cracker lines and Kellogg Co. to recast its advertising for Special K from a weight-loss pitch to that of a well-being booster.

85% GAIN IN SALES

Even so, Weight Watchers' Smart Ones posted sales of $130.2 million, up 85%, a far greater gain than that of rival Nestle, whose Stouffer's Lean Cuisine brand posted a 4.6% increase to $313.8 million for its flagship entree line, according to Information Resources Inc. data for the 52 weeks ended July 19. And even though Stouffer's spent $12 million advertising Lean Cuisine last year, including $1.3 million of that on its Cafe Classics line extension, Cafe Classics sales fell 17% to $101.7 million.

Stouffer's full-calorie lines lead the $3.8 billion category for frozen dinners and entrees with $585.4 million in sales. ConAgra's Healthy Choice holds the No. 2 slot, with $417.1 million, down 7.1%.

Mr. Dudwick said the additional Heinz business helps build his shop's two anchor accounts. DDB Needham reopened in San Francisco in 1996 when Foote, Cone & Belding -- which picked up the S.C. Johnson & Son business in its Chicago office -- was forced to part with Clorox.

Mr. Dudwick and almost two dozen FCB staffers founded the shop, which subsequently picked up Clorox's Armor All carcare products line and Heinz's Bagel Bites and Rosetta Pasta brands.

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