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Mars Encourages Women to Have a Fling

First New Brand From Candy Giant in Almost 20 Years Rolls Out With Fewer Calories and Plenty of Double Entendres

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Mars is prepping its first new candy brand since Twix nearly 20 years ago: a low-calorie chocolate bar dubbed "Fling," aimed at women.

The candy is positioned as "Naughty, but not that naughty." In the first commercial that breaks next week from longtime roster shop BBDO, New York, a woman appears to enter a dressing room occupied by a man, with the two then getting undressed and proceeding to act, er, naughty. But then the camera pans over the top of the fitting rooms, revealing they are actually in two separate dressing rooms, as he struggles with his clothes and she secretly nibbles on a Fling.

Print work for the brand declares "It's not cheating if you don't feel guilty," "Your boyfriend doesn't need to know," and "Pleasure yourself."

The campaign, which also includes cover wraps on issues of People magazine, breaks in the California market next week, and the full push will roll out nationally this year. Along with BBDO, Mars will work with Agency.com for online work and public relations firm Taylor to market the new brand.

Mars representative Ryan Bowling said the concept for Fling -- which has been in development for more than two years -- was to develop a a "permissive indulgence" for women. At 170 calories a bar, and at a recession-friendly price point of 79 cents a pack, Fling will retail in stores and online at flingchocolate.com

This notion of chocolate as an indulgence is clearly something Mars takes seriously, as Mars Snackfood U.S. has even named a resident VP-indulgence, Thomas Pinnau. Asked about the launch of the new candy, Mr. Pinnau said Mars' ultimate goal is to "establish Fling within the consumer's chocolate repertoire."

The U.S. launch of Fling was preceded by a round of tests in the Australian market, which yielded a revamped recipe and tweaked positioning. The new version comes with (excessively) girly touches, such as a hot-pink foil wrapper and shimmering pink "mica" dust on each candy bar.

Fling looks a bit like a light version of Twix, a duo of 5-inch long "fingers" that weigh in at only a little more than an ounce. Each has a crisp layer of merengue wafer, topped by a whipped truffle, then dipped in chocolate. Fling is available in three flavors, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and hazelnut.

The product launch coincides with the departure of Bob Gamgort, the global president of Mars' flagship chocolate business, who leaves the company after butting heads with Mars' global president, Paul S. Michaels.

It also comes as food and other marketers are spending more time concentrating on the female demographic. Frito-Lay, for example recently repositioned its snacks, and Reebok is pinning hopes of a comeback on a renewed focus on women.

Mars' Fling will likely compete head to head with Hershey's Bliss, an updated, up-market Kiss, aimed squarely at women. Bliss launched last year, and Hershey has said that sales exceeded internal expectations. The confectioner is planning a year-long marketing blitz for Bliss in 2009, as well as extensive sampling.

Analysts have also been impressed with brisk sales of Bliss, particularly at a time when consumers have been trading down from premium chocolate to cheaper treats.

Mars is a closely held private company, but competitor Hershey's situation may shed some light on the marketplace. Hershey reported fourth-quarter net income up 51%, thanks in part to a 23% increase in marketing spending. Credit Suisse analyst Rob Moskow downgraded Hershey this week, however, citing lower volume as retailers trim inventory to reduce overhead. Price increases are likely to boost total sales.

Mars and Hershey have been locked in a back-and-forth battle for supremacy in the grocery chocolate category for years. Mars' M&Ms have maintained a decisive lead of late, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., with $255 million sales for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 25. Hershey's iconic chocolate bar was a distant second, with $187 million in sales. IRI figures do not include Walmart or club stores. Hershey's Reese's brand leads the "snack candy" category, with $93 million in sales during the 52 weeks ended Jan. 25. Mars' Snickers was second, with $74 million in sales, according to IRI.



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