LAYS CHIPS LANDS AT DDB NEEDHAM: SPENDING MAY GET BOOST TO $30 MIL

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Frito-Lay has awarded its flagship Lays potato chips account to DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, moving the brand from BBDO Worldwide, New York, without a review.

Although the brand hasn't been actively advertised in more than two years, executives familiar with Frito-Lay said the plan is to return Lays to a full advertising program and reposition the brand, marketed recently as a price-sensitive rival to private-label chips.

The Baked Lays brand, which has received the bulk of ad support since its national rollout in 1996, will remain at BBDO.

If Frito-Lay brings national spending up to the level of one of its other major brands, the shift could eventually be worth at least $25 million to $30 million in billings for DDB Needham. That would be a boon for the agency, which earlier this year lost a shootout with incumbent BBDO on Frito-Lay's $40 million Doritos business.

DDB Needham is now developing new Lays advertising scheduled to break by June; Frito-Lay hasn't decided yet whether to test the ads before running them nationally.

The brand's last major ad push used the "Bet you can't eat just one" tag; measured media spending last year was $1.5 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting. By comparison, Baked Lays was backed by $21.9 million in measured media last year.

Frito recently signaled some renewed interest in the brand, introducing a Red Pepper Grill variety in the past month.

LEADING THE CATEGORY

Even without significant ad support, Lays led the $1.9 billion potato chip category for the 52 weeks ended March 30 in food, drug and mass merchandisers, according to Information Resources Inc. Its sales of $487.6 million were up 13.2% during the period, giving Lays 25.7% of the category.

Frito's Ruffles placed in second with $403.9 million in sales, up 6.5%, for a 21.3% share. Private label came in third with $179.9 million in sales, up 21%, for a 9.5% share.

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