Kraft, Meredith team to deliver custom insert

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Kraft Foods will unveil a major shift in its couponing strategy next week with a newspaper-distributed custom-published insert.

The marketer has teamed with Meredith Corp. to produce an eight-page custom publication, "Food & Family," that will debut nationally Feb. 6. The custom piece will replace Kraft's previous placement of coupons in newspaper inserts -- known as free standing inserts -- that contain offers from multiple companies.

"Traditional FSIs don't offer us as much opportunity to deliver a strong equity message or added value," said Lance Friedmann, senior VP-consumer insights and communications at Kraft. "By having control of the entire vehicle, we have more opportunity to address consumer needs for food solutions."

CORPORATE BRAND BUILDING

"Food & Family" is yet another step in Kraft's ongoing $50 million corporate brand-building effort. This year has brought numerous multibrand promotions from the $17 billion package-goods behemoth, including a short-lived ad campaign last summer and promotion of its Web site (kraft.com). The marketer's total ad spending via newspapers alone exceeded $5 million for the first 10 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The creation of "Food & Family" -- for which Kraft is partnering with Meredith on content development and with News America Corp. on distribution -- extends Kraft's ongoing strategy to leverage its portfolio of brands as a way to help families connect over food.

The publication is being treated like a new product, with its own integrated advertising campaign to introduce "Food & Family" in March. J.Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, will handle the effort, which likely will include TV, radio and print ads.

The first issue of "Food & Family," which will appear roughly once a month, features a mother and daughter on the cover instead of particular Kraft brands -- a strategy the marketer hopes will set it apart from other inserts. The cover carries a tagline, "Valuable coupons inside," with discount offers on its Kraft Singles, Minute Rice, Stove Top, Tang and Tombstone brands contained within. Editorial features include Family Roundtable, Wisdom of Moms, Cooking Without Recipes and Kids in the Kitchen.

Eventually, Kraft plans to target the publication more directly. For example, recipes, tips and coupon offers will be customized for specific ethnic segments or retailers, Mr. Friedman said.

The switch from traditional FSIs to a customized vehicle is groundbreaking for a package-goods marketer, according to industry observers.

"This is a brilliant marketing move by Kraft, because it capitalizes on their advertising and couponing heritage, and delivers it in a format that will reach a far greater audience than traditional magazines can," said Wally Marx, president of market researcher Wallace Marx & Associates.

`BIG ENOUGH TO DO IT'

News America's mailing list can reach 60 million households in one day, the majority in the top economic half of the country, Mr. Marx said. Although published rates for full-page inserts are on average $7 to $8 per thousand, Kraft will likely achieve far greater efficiencies with its own vehicle, he said.

"Kraft is big enough to do it," Mr. Marx said.

Kraft has worked with Meredith Corp. Integrated Marketing the past four years to produce other custom pieces, including hard- and soft-cover books, in-store leaflets and coupon inserts for magazines. But Christopher W. Schraft, managing director of the Meredith unit, said this project was by far Kraft's largest effort. The publishing unit is currently working on tailoring similar FSI units for the Hispanic and African American markets.

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