Milky Way takes alternative turn in Midnight ads

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M&M/Mars is using the relaunch of its Milky Way Dark Bar, newly dubbed Milky Way Midnight, as a test case to determine how to reach teens and young adults in lifestyle-driven alternative media.

Milky Way Midnight, renamed to distance it from the less-popular dark chocolate segment, is being positioned as an "intriguing underground candy bar." The integrated marketing plan forgoes TV in favor of edgy print and outdoor executions, Internet activities and grassroots sampling events.

"The reality of the marketplace is that there is an increasing amount of media fragmentation and, because of that environment, we have to get more creative in how we market to teens and young adults," said Bob Gamgort, VP-marketing for M&M/Mars. "In the case of Milky Way Midnight, we're looking to market the personality of the brand vs. the attributes of the product, something that has become common for coffee or other beverage marketers but is really a different approach for the world of snack food and confectionery," he said.

ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES

The company will use the launch effort to determine how such alternative approaches could be applied to other, bigger brands and new-product introductions, Mr. Gamgort said.

The repositioning of Milky Way Dark under the Midnight banner followed findings that the vanilla nougat and caramel candy bar appealed not to the typical dark chocolate consumer -- women 34 to 49 -- but rather to 18-to-24-year-olds who viewed it as uniquely suited for nighttime indulging.

Milky Way Dark drew only about $10 million in sales in 1999, a small fraction of the $150 million M&M/Mars saw for the overall brand last year.

The first of the launch efforts began early this month with outdoor ads in the top 10 markets teasing consumers with the phrase "Carpe noctem" (or "Seize the night") and the URL address seizethenight.net. A similar strategy proved successful for Kraft Foods' Callard & Bowser Suchard unit with its introduction of Cinnamon Altoids.

EDGY PRINT

The Midnight campaign from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, continues with three edgy national print ads in May issues of Spin and Vibe, as well as outdoor executions in key urban markets that unveil the mystery product. The ads quip, "You don't unwrap it, you undress it" or "Food for thought. Especially those thoughts," alongside the new Midnight bar. The awareness-building campaign will be supported with the deployment this month of "Midnight Riders," motorcyclists who will visit nightclubs and hot spots in 10 cities to give away samples of Milky Way Midnight and passes to exclusive clubs. In addition, M&M/Mars will conduct public relations efforts to promote Midnight Mayhem, a July 13 Webcast featuring eight alternative bands performing in four cities, including Atlanta and New York.

M&M/Mars spent $20 million in media against its Milky Way franchise in 1999, the bulk of it against the base Milky Way bar, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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