KOOL-AID PITCHERMAN STAYS, BUT OGILVY PUTS HIM TO WORK: KRAFT ICON PLAYS MORE ACTIVE ROLE IN NEW ADS; LINE EXTENSION SET

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Don't screw around with the Kool-Aid man.

That's what Ogilvy & Mather, New York, learned not long after it was awarded Kraft Foods' estimated $25 million Kool-Aid account last year.

The agency was initially tempted to tinker with the 25-year-old, portly pitcherman. But "we spent a lot of time talking to kids . . . [and] found out that the icon was so strongly entrenched," said Rick Roth, worldwide client services director for Kraft at O&M.

So when Kraft breaks its new effort for Kool-Aid today, the character will be there, albeit in a more active role. The character will now be more involved in interactions with kids rather than serving as a passive bystander.

MORE ATHLETIC

Amid the usual razzle-dazzle of the kids-oriented campaign, with a rainbow of Kool-Aid in the background, the spokescharacter frolics with kids at a beach party, including windsurfing. That's a bit more athletic than he's been in prior campaigns from previous agency Grey Advertising, New York, which created him in the 1970s.

A second spot in the campaign will break in April to introduce a line extension, non-caffeinated Kool-Aid Fruit T's.

The extension is aimed at capturing for the value-oriented, powdered soft-drink category some of the vitality that ready-to-drink teas have brought to the adult market.

Gary Hempill, VP of consultancy Beverage Marketing Corp., said he knows of no major entries in ready-to-drink teas aimed at kids, which may give Kraft's powdered entry the field all to itself initially.

Although growth of ready-to-drink teas isn't as robust as it was in the early 1990s, Mr. Hempill said bottled and canned tea sales rose 9.5% in 1998 over the prior year. That's in contrast to a growth falloff for Kool-Aid.

SALES A MIXED BAG

Sales of Kool-Aid were $214.5 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 31, down 3.6%, according to Information Resources Inc. data, although Kool-Aid's Mega Mountain Twists extension posted 13.5% growth, to $59 million. Island Twists, another line extension, showed $45 million in sales during that time, down 9.8%.

Kraft traditionally augments its kid-directed Kool-Aid effort, airing primarily on Saturday morning TV programming, with a separate print and TV campaign aimed at mothers.

Mr. Roth wouldn't discuss those plans, but did say the effort will include Kool-Aid's trademark smile symbol.

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