Gerber aims at Latino birth explosion

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Gerber Products Co. acknowledges the Hispanic baby boom with the launch of its first-ever integrated advertising campaign targeted to the growing demographic.

The Novartis Consumer Health unit's $4 million effort, from Bromley Communications, San Antonio, will include spot TV, print, radio, direct mail and event sampling to reach a group that statistics show will represent 25% of the total births by 2005. Gerber's previous Hispanic advertising, including efforts in Los Angeles last year, was sporadic and consisted largely of translating general-market ads into Spanish. But the new campaign -- the first from Bromley since it won the account in August -- is intended to run year-round and is based on solid consumer insights that make it especially relevant to Hispanic moms, said Laura Fantella, senior product manager-infant feeding at Gerber.

BOOMING GROWTH

Reconnecting Gerber with Hispanic moms is especially important now. U.S. census data shows the number of Hispanic women between the ages of 15 and 44 grew 205% last year vs. growth of only 5% for non-Hispanic women of the same age, Ms. Fantella said. And Hispanic women are very valuable consumers because they buy about 25% more baby food than non-Hispanic moms, start introducing cereal and baby food much earlier than general-market moms and continue with it well beyond the first year, she added.

The campaign, featuring the theme "A Gerber baby is a happy baby," includes two TV executions that broke last week, one informing Hispanic moms of the breadth of the Gerber portfolio, and one touting the distinct advantages of the proprietary NatureLock cooking technology Gerber introduced last year.

"Hispanic moms know of the [Gerber] brand from Latin America, but very often they could not afford to buy it. Now, when they come to this country and have more disposable income, the ability to buy a convenience item like Gerber is really aspirational," Ms. Fantella said.

TALES WITH A TWIST

The spots feature moms and dads bending well-known stories to get their babies to eat. In the NatureLock spot, a mother tells her own version of "Little Red Riding Hood," saying, "she had big eyes because she ate all her carrots" and "she was so strong because she ate all her spinach," tales that segue into information about how the NatureLock slow-cooking process helps capture freshness.

"The Hispanic market is very visual and literal, so while the voice-over tells about slow cooking, we put in animation to show the transformation from an apple to an apple jar," said Sue De Lopez, account supervisor at Bromley.

A second spot depicts Gerber's portfolio of products for each stage of a baby's development by showing a dad telling his 3-month-old the story of how Tom Thumb grew, then retelling the tale to his child at 6 months and at 9 months.

Gerber will start direct mail in late spring, while print ads hit in April magazines. Event marketing efforts to Hispanic audiences begin this week and will continue later in the year.

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