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The long-awaited national rollout of Olean-based potato chips is in motion as Frito-Lay and Procter & Gamble Co. finalize marketing plans for an April launch.

Although both Frito-Lay's Wow! and P&G's Fat-Free Pringles technically still are testing in Columbus, Ohio, and Indiana, Frito is in discussions with the major TV networks about a huge promotional program surrounding the Wow! launch.

P&G is believed to be readying a national ad campaign for its Olean fat substitute, to break by February or March.


P&G declined to confirm the timing of its Pringles rollout or the Olean campaign, from Grey Advertising, New York. Grey has had the ingredient account but was recently handed the Pringles business following P&G's parting with Wells BDDP, New York.

Currently, Fat-Free Pringles is supported with the ad tagline "Can you get great taste in a fat-free chip? Yes, you can."

TV advertising for the ingredient, which is running in the products' test markets, shows a farmer talking about the natural

ness of Olean, which is made from soybeans.

The company last year said that Fat-Free Pringles would be fully national no later than Oct. 1, 1998. Last week, P&G said its new factory to produce the ingredient would be fully operational within days.


Frito didn't return calls regarding its launch or the national promotion for Wow!, being handled by TL Partnership, Dallas. But an executive familiar with Frito's plans said the snack marketer hoped to make "a lot of noise" with a completely original promotion that would break in summer or early fall, the launch of the new TV season.

In addition to what will undoubtedly be a high-ticket promotion, Frito is expected to spend heavily on advertising to back the launch. For its last significant introduction, Baked Lays, the company spent an estimated $40 million.


Frito no doubt will have to commit significant resources to consumer promotion to blunt special-interest groups, which have loudly protested any Olean products on the basis of health concerns.

Olean is a fat that isn't absorbed by the body, and must also carry a label warning against gastrointestinal distress, cramping and loose stools.

The marketer already is hedging its bets in that regard-it's cranked up its publicity machine in Phoenix and Sacramento, Calif., where the company is said to be starting its slow rollout.

BBDO Worldwide, New York, is handling the Wow! launch. The product has been supported in test with a TV campaign themed "One taste and you'll be a believer."


The agency has been working on a new approach for Wow!'s rollout, and last year contacted Rosie O'Donnell to act as national spokeswoman. The talk-show host turned the role down.

PaineWebber analyst Manny Goldman, who has studied the Indianapolis test closely, said that because Wow! chips are priced about 40% higher than regular chips, Frito-Lay could stand to add 2 to 3 percentage points to its domestic earnings even without adding volume.

"This [product] will be big time for Pepsi," he said.

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