FLAVOR IS KEY IN $10 MIL PROMO FOR MARS' STARBURST FRUIT CHEWS: PUSH INCLUDES TV COMMERCIAL, SWEEPSTAKES

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M&M/Mars breaks a 12-week integrated promotion for Starburst fruit chews today beginning with a TV commercial asking consumers to "Chew the clue."

It's estimated the candy marketer is spending $8 million to $10 million on the promotion. The company wouldn't discuss spending, other than to say via a spokeswoman that "it's a fair amount of gross rating points."

The spot, which will run every other week for 12 weeks, features a talking squirrel perched on a vending machine. The wisecracking squirrel explains to a teen-ager unwrapping a fruit chew marked with a question mark that he could win a trip to Hawaii. The teen's guess of the candy's flavor in the spot: pork.

INSTRUCTIONS FROM SQUIRREL

Packages of Starburst and the spot alert consumers to an 888-number, answered by a recording in the squirrel's voice. The voice asks the caller to guess the flavor from a menu while also offering an instant-win sweepstakes on the phone. The voice spins an imaginary wheel to tell callers whether they've won; a spokeswoman said the winner is chosen by a random system.

Grey Advertising, New York, created the spot, and Thomas J. Paul, Philadelphia, the promotion.

M&M/Mars said the spot will run on prime-time, syndicated, cable and Hispanic TV as well as in-school Channel One.

In addition to the 35 grand prize Hawaii trips, Mars is offering 2,000 first prizes of gear such as knapsacks and Starburst radios as well as 5,000 second prizes of beach towels.

The company said the effort wasn't necessarily aimed at getting feedback on new flavors, but the spokeswoman said it wouldn't rule out adding a flavor if callers overwhelmingly preferred it.

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