KUDOS GET QUIRKY TV SPOTS SHOT BY 'ANTI-AD' ACTORS: MTV-LIKE ADS USED AS M&M/MARS RECLAIMS CHOCOLATE ORIGINS OF BARS

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Seeking an untraditional ad look for its Kudos granola snacks, M&M/Mars found one in a new effort breaking this week from Merkley Newman Harty, New York. The campaign also introduces a new variety, Kudos with Snickers, the latest example of Mars' strategy to cross-promote its brands for greater leverage.

Kudos with Snickers marks the second time the company brought one of its candy trademarks to Kudos; Kudos with M&M Minis came out last year.

TARGETING TEENS

The $5 million Kudos campaign, now breaking on radio, cable TV and some network TV, is aimed at teens and showcases four young people on a road trip to promote the brand.

To highlight Kudos' brand proposition-the "juxtaposition" of chocolate and granola-the kids are sent on a mission to document odd juxtapositions, such as basketball-playing monks, psychic manicurists and cappuccino shops that also groom dogs. But agency executives said the actors ended up hijacking the cameras and filming their own commercials instead.

"We tried to invent these kids with an anti-advertising stance," said Marty Cooke, partner and executive creative director at Merkley. "They were supposed to drive around and have the marketing guys [on a cellular phone] tell them what to do. But the kids ended up filming it."

The result is a pool of 15 disjointed but engaging spots reminiscent of MTV's "Road Rules" series. The commercials feature not only the music network's trademark quick cuts but odd camera angles, strange encounters and unusual repartee for which the granola bars form a quiet backdrop.

"It's not attribute-driven, it's attitude-driven," said Mr. Cooke.

BACK TO CHOCOLATE

In going back to the chocolate heritage of Kudos, Mars is abandoning its move to a healthier profile.

Hugely successful in the heyday of granola bars in 1990, the brand experienced a slow sales decline after trying low-fat and nonchocolate-covered versions.

Mars responded with a new agency-Bates Worldwide, New York, had handled-and discontinued low-fat strawberry and blueberry varieties and renewed the focus on teens. That brought about the switch back toward chocolate.

According to Information Resources Inc., Kudos ranks fifth in the $814.7 million granola bar category behind Kellogg Co.'s Nutri-Grain, Quaker Oats Co.'s Chewy Granola Bar, Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats and Nabisco Foods' SnackWell's.

A Mars spokeswoman maintains the company's four chief Kudos varieties are among the top four sellers in the category, attributing sales slippage to the

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