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GERBER STARTS NEW ADS AS AGENCY REVIEW NARROWS;NOBLE AD CAMPAIGN WILL INTRODUCE OVERHAUL OF PACKAGING, RECIPES

By Published on .

Gerber Products named three finalists for its ad account even as it unveiled details of a new campaign from incumbent Noble & Associates, Springfield, Mo.

The new work is part of a complete overhaul of Gerber's baby food business that will include new packaging and recipes and an increase in its $20 million ad budget.

O&M AND CME COMPETE

Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago and Los Angeles, and Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, are competing with Noble for Gerber's account. A decision is expected in the first quarter.

"We're getting aggressive. We're the leader and we're acting like it," said Patrick Doyle, VP-general manager of baby food at Gerber.

He said the company would increase spending next year but wouldn't specify by how much.

The national TV, print and point-of-purchase campaign breaks in late January to introduce Gerber's new packaging and 120 new no-starch and no-sugar added recipes. Ads carry the tagline, "Better than ever, inside and out."

The push comes as category leader Gerber struggles with consumer perceptions that its image is dated.

"Consumers told us they associated Gerber with some all-American icons, but they were things like June Cleaver, the Studebaker and Barbara Bush," said Mr. Doyle. "To sell to mothers in the '90s we had to be more relevant."

UPDATING GERBER'S BABY

The new packaging features Gerber's trademark baby drawn in pencil with less of a bluish cast, and encircled with blue in the corner of the label. The label also features clearer artwork of the food inside so consumers can easily differentiate between var-ieties.

Landor Associates, San Francisco, developed the redesign.

The food reformulation follows charges by health groups that the company's brands were loaded with sugar and starch. The publicity from those charges hasn't helped Gerber; sales fell 8.6% for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 8, to $479.1 million, according to Information Resources Inc.

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