M&M/MARS SWEETENS ADS TO EAT UP SHARE;HERSHEY'S GAINS MOTIVATE FRESH TAGLINES, CREATIVE

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In the first wave of new ads since M&M/Mars jostled its agency roster in February, the nation's no. 2 candy marketer is overhauling its core brands to steal back share from Hershey Chocolate USA.

Entering the crucial Halloween season, M&M/Mars is unleashing new taglines for Snickers, Twix and Milky Way, and new creative for M&M's.

The onslaught's intent is to recapture the 3 to 4 share points M&M/Mars has lost in recent years to Hershey, where new products like Hershey Hugs and Reese's Nutrageous have boosted the marketer's take of the $6.1 billion candy market.

"Hershey's new products not only generate excitement in the category but have given Hershey a very strong position with the trade," said New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Leo-nard Teitelbaum.

The marketer this month launches Hershey's Cookies 'n' Cream, a line extension similar to 1992's Cookies 'n' Mint.

But as Hershey's gains begin to slow-the marketer's share held steady at 34.2% in the year ended May 28, according to Information Resources Inc.-M&M/Mars is hoping an advertising renaissance will boost its 26.1% share.

Mars wouldn't comment on spending for the ads, but spent $115 million on the four brands last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

New Snickers work from BBDO Worldwide, New York, bears the tagline, "Why wait?", a departure from "Snickers really satisfies." One 30-second spot features Buffalo Bills Coach Marv Levy attempting to convince the perennial Super Bowl losers they can win it all this year. "No one is leaving this room till we figure out how!" he orders. A subsequent 15-second tag shows the players still sitting in the locker room, eating Snickers.

Sports play a big role in new M&M/Mars ads, despite its rivals' lock on league sponsorships: Hershey sponsors the NFL and NCAA, while Nestle Chocolate & Confections supports the NBA.

In a new Twix :30 from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, young fans at a pseudo NBA game take a break and head for the concession stand. "Time out for Twix" is the tag.

Two new Milky Way spots from DMB&B similarly target stressed-out teens with the tagline, "Smooth out with Milky Way." In one spot, a rattled young man recuperates with a Milky Way after being chased into a swimming pool by a swarm of angry bees.

Despite the wave of new ads, M&M/Mars' reliance on core brands may not be enough to grow share, analysts say. Indeed, core brand sales may not be the marketer's problem. In the year ended July 17, M&M sales grew 7.3%; Snickers was up 4.5%; Twix increased 17.8%; and Milky Way, 9.2%, according to IRI.

"To gain share in package goods, regardless of the category, you need new products," Mr. Teitelbaum said.

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