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Come June 9, Kellogg Co. will be launching a new 15-ounce box of its popular Frosted Flakes cereal, a special product produced to help inaugurate a Tony the Tiger Nascar racing car. The marketer won't be introducing the cereal on supermarket shelves, however; it will debut on shop-at-home TV channel QVC.

That's Kellogg's second product introduction on QVC, following Cocoa Frosted Flakes earlier this year, and the choice of initial medium illustrates a surprising-yet spreading-trend among low-ticket package-goods marketers.

Hershey Foods Corp. and Campbell Soup Co. are among the other marketers embracing TV home shopping.


"The demographics were right," said Lynne Chappel, senior manager-corporate licensing for Campbell, which makes its first appearance on QVC June 25 for a line of Campbell-branded memorabilia and collectibles.

The age and income profile of QVC viewers-31-plus with house-hold earnings of more than $60,000-fits the profile of the audience the soupmaker wants to reach for its licensed merchandise, she said.

Ms. Chappel said Campbell will have a full hour on the QVC telecast and will sell reproductions of the first Campbell Kid dolls, along with antique vehicles, trains and signs, housewares, watches,

T-shirts and the like. Within the program, Campbell also will showcase historical advertising and videos related to the merchandise being sold.

Although Campbell-a company that specializes in cold-weather foods often launched in the fall-isn't introducing a new product on QVC, Ms. Chappel said the marketer would "definitely consider it for the future."

Kellogg, the marketer perhaps most associated with a QVC package-goods launch, actually wasn't the first. That trail was blazed by Hershey, which in October 1996 introduced its Pot of Gold boxed candy line on QVC.

"This alliance of two major U.S. companies delivers the best chocolates via the best electronic retailer to a vast American audience," said Mike Pasquale, president of Hershey's Chocolate World, at the time.

Initially begun as a video "factory tour," at the Chocolate World factory, one of many done on QVC, the Pot of Gold introduction sold 1,600 boxes of candy in 4 minutes.


That's without any upfront cost to the marketer, according to Fred Siegel, senior VP-marketing at QVC. The airtime is free to the marketer, with QVC taking a cut of on-air sales.

"If you're a pack-age-goods company looking for a platform, you not only get your message out in a long format, you also make money selling the stuff," he said.

He adds that it's a low-risk adjunct to regular TV advertising for a new product.

"You develop an advertising campaign that costs all kinds of money and try to make a hit with it," said Mr. Siegel, whose past posts include exec VP-executive creative director at Ketchum Advertising and senior VP-group creative director at McCann-Erickson World- wide, both New York. "But at QVC, you get more than a 30-second spot or a 15-second soundbite-or even a 2-minute feature on CNN. You have [from] 8 minutes to an hour to sell your product."

Meridien Consulting Managing Director Jeff Hill agrees that TV shopping is a viable outlet for pack-age-goods marketers, who, in a frag-mented media environment, "must evaluate more creative ways to launch products before they fall back on conventional marketing approaches."


Detractors, however, maintain there's a big risk in using TV shopping channels-a risk to brand image.

"TV shopping is the souffle that never rose," said Alan Millstein, editor of Fashion Network Report. "They do have certain niches-the elderly, the home-bound and those in [outlying] counties," he said. But "it's not a prestige place to show your product. It's two steps above a flea market."

"The [QVC sales] environment can demean and disparage the product being sold," said Chet Kane, president of consultancy Kane, Bortree & Associates. "The environment becomes part of the message, and part of the brand equity."

And the messengers, Mr. Millstein maintains, are far from ideal. He describes them as "out-of-work TV actresses, comedians who can't get work at [the Catskill resort] the Concord and faux princesses."

"Anyone challenging TV shopping as a collection of `retired actresses' has overthought the issue," countered Mr. Hill. The benefits [of using such a vehicle for marketing] far outweigh the risks."

TV shopping "is a source for incremental sales, an opportunity to evaluate your message delivery and it can be used as a precursor to a national launch to assess [consumer] interest in the product," insisted Mr. Hill.

Copy evaluation, in fact, is one of Mr. Siegel's pitches in attracting new food marketers to the cable TV network. He said that since sales are tracked on a minute-by-minute basis, marketers can get an accurate analysis of what part of the sales pitch works best.

"You can see in real time what things you say spike sales," he noted.


Betsy Frank, exec VP-strategic media resources at Zenith Media Services, New York, has visited QVC headquarters in West Ches-ter, Pa., and said it's true that you can actually see what part of the sales pitch is working based upon how the call boards light up.

"It's amazing to watch how the responses vary," she said.

One criticism the network can't easily sidestep, however, involves questions about its viewership totals. QVC said that because viewers tune in and out, it's impossible to get an accurate count of who is watching and when, but it still maintains the network reaches at least 56 million homes.

"Advertising is a good excuse to channel surf, and surfers come to us," Mr. Siegel said.

Mr. Millstein, however, said that QVC's core shoppers number only around 3 million.

"While it's true they are not rated by Nielsen, you can make competent guesses [as to the number of viewers being reached] by tracking the calls," Ms. Frank said.

TV shopping doesn't have a great number of supporters in the ad agency community, Mr. Siegel admitted, adding agencies don't make a commission on the deal since no airtime is bought.

"There's a perception among the agency community that QVC is the lunatic fringe," he said.


Ms. Frank is one of the exceptions.

"I really don't think that's true," said Ms. Frank, whose agency buys media for package-goods giant Procter & Gamble Co., among others.

"I don't think a significant chunk of the ad budget would go [to TV shopping], but there is some appeal in some categories," she said.

Zenith hasn't recommended any clients to QVC, however.

QVC has indisputably worked for Kellogg, now ready to start its second run on the channel. When the company made its QVC debut March 14, it brought Tony the Tiger to the set and had him hawk "autographed" boxes of Cocoa Frosted Flakes, sold along with a set of four breakfast bowls featuring Kellogg characters. And the 10-minute segment moved 3,000 units and reaped the com-pany untold publicity.

"It is a unique way to launch a cereal product," said a Kellogg spokeswoman. The QVC deal was a "creative new way to communicate news to consumers. This seemed like a . . . tool to utilize."

Because of the high cost of shipping and handling compared to the relatively low shelf price of package goods, QVC events need value-added products to go along with the ordinary item, such as the commemorative cereal bowls.

For its push this month, Kellogg is marketing its special 15-ounce Frosted Flakes box with memorabilia that may include a die-cast model of the new Nascar car that Terry Labonte will drive at a Michigan Nascar race June 15.


But whether consumers will turn to QVC to buy cereal and other day-to-day consumables remains to be seen.

Package-goods brands "with endless amounts of dollars to spend may want to try [QVC], because it's certainly cheaper than being held hostage to supermarket chains" with slotting allowances and failure fees, Mr. Millstein said. But as a consumer, he said it makes little sense.

"Why buy cereal off TV when you can go down to the corner to the supermarket to get it?" he asked.

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