The estimated $10 million campaign includes radio and outdoor as well as a sales promotion effort in which a "Grim Reaper" will visit about six communities. Ads will begin first in the South and West, spreading to other markets by May.
Although Clorox has advertised Combat each season, this campaign is its first effort at a consistent and long-term ad theme in recent years.
In one of two 30-second spots, the Grim Reaper appears in a kitchen at night. He tells listeners not to worry, and whips out a box of the roach bait, assuring them he's there not to harm them, but to "kill when you're asleep."
With a touch of dry humor, the Reaper says of the product: "Night after night, it kills and kills. Death comes quickly," he says, smashing roaches with his feet and scythe. "I like that."
The character, played by a black-robed actor with skeleton fingers and feet, also appears on outdoor boards under headlines such as "Roaches, be afraid. Be very afraid."
For 1997, Combat held 20% of the $400 million ant/roach insecticide market, second to S.C. Johnson & Son's Raid with 44%, according to company estimates. In the roach-bait segment, which commands a higher price, in the range of $6 to $8 per package vs. a $2 average price for aerosols, Combat is No. 1, with 67%.
"When it comes to roaches, it's an emotional thing," said Betsy Anderson, account supervisor at Y&R Advertising, San Francisco.
Research with focus groups found what consumers wanted was something to kill them.
"The Grim Reaper is what everybody really wants," she said.