Line reaches for Skyy

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As part of its grand plan to eclipse Stolichnaya as the country's No. 2 super-premium vodka, Skyy Spirits is launching an ad campaign for its first line extension, Skyy Citrus.

The introductory effort-with two vividly colorful executions and subtle pictures of fruit-is designed to build awareness and sampling, said Teresa Zapeda, brand director at Skyy. The campaign, estimated at $1 million, will run in trendy magazines such as Interview, Paper and Out; and in some female-skewed titles such as Cosmopolitan. The primary focus is women age 21 to 34. After a preview in New York, the print ads break nationally in February, with local outdoor possible by summer. The Skyy Web site (www.skyy.com) also has an area dedicated to Citrus.

Skyy, which launched in 1992, rolled out Citrus in April. The ads, from Lambesis, Del Mar, Calif., are a toned-down version of the risque campaign for original Skyy. Ms. Zapeda said Skyy, which usually has no tag, this time used "A blend of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine" to drive home the taste of the new line.

Skyy is a small player on the spirits scene, with less than 1% of the total market and less than a quarter of the advertising budget of vodka segment leader Absolut. But racy ads-like one showing a man hiding under a bed while his paramour entertains another-helped spike sales.

Skyy sold an estimated 1 million cases last year, up 22% from 815,000 cases in 1999, the latest figures available from spirits-industry publication Impact. In comparison, Absolut sold 4.1 million cases in 1999; Stoli sold 1.2 million cases. Sales of vodka, the country's largest spirits category, grew 3% from 1998 to 1999, the most recent time frame for which data are available.

Ms. Zapeda predicts Skyy sales could surpass Stoli within two years. But Stoli is looking for a revival now that Allied Domecq Spirits USA has assumed U.S. distributorship and pledged to spend $24 million advertising the brand via Omnicom unit BBDO Worldwide, Chicago.

Skyy spent $3.6 million on measured media in 1999 and $1.7 million in the first six months of last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Absolut spent $12.3 million on its flavored line extensions in 1999, and $7.5 million for the first six months of last year. TBWA/Chiat/Day, London and New York, handles.

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