The third-quarter outlay, beginning July 1, is just $5 million less than the company's total spending on crackers last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
For the first quarter of this year, Nabisco put less than $1 million in ad support behind its crackers, which claim 54% of the $2.3 billion category.
The TV, print and promotion campaign unites Wheat Thins, Triscuit and Ritz crackers in an all-out attempt to get consumers to view the way they eat crackers differently.
"We want to give consumers `permission' to eat crackers more often, not just at holidays," said Lynn Ambrosia, VP-savory snacks.
With cracker consumption declining, said Product Manager John Faucher, Nabisco needs to position crackers as the basis for a snack.
"If the category has a problem, so do we," he said.
"Each of the [cracker] brands was suffering from the same problem," said Jonathan Cranin, creative director at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, agen-cy for Nabisco crackers. "There was slipping usage and a lack of modernity" in the image of the brands.
BUILDING A SNACK
The solution, Nabisco believes, is to reposition the cracker as the basis for a topped snack. As such, the new spots show snack-cracker recipes.
There are nine spots in the campaign pool, themed, "Open up a box. Make up a snack."
One commercial featuring Ed McMahon opens with an announcer saying snacks should be on hand for unexpected guests as Mr. McMahon is shown holding a check for $10 million-he's also a spokesman for American Family Publishers. He says his favorite snack is pizza on a Triscuit.
Tags on other spots invite consumers to open auditions in several cities for a role in a Nabisco commercial outlining their favorite ways to snack on Ritz, Wheat Thins or Triscuit.
The first auditions, held June 18 in New York, drew 400 would-be actors by noon. A total of 15 casting calls will be held and consumers can call a toll-free hot line to offer other snack suggestions.
AIR CRISP'S STRATEGY
The topped-snack approach differs from that being pursued by Nabisco for its Air Crisps line, positioned as a fast snack for on-the-go consumption, Ms. Ambrosia noted.
Previously, Ritz had been portrayed as an indulgence in spots showing a man and his grandson sharing Ritz crackers. Wheat Thins was promoted as "the "most taste you can get in a square inch." Triscuit had been relatively unadvertised since 1990.
"We'd been focusing [our ad spending instead] on introducing new products," Mr. Faucher said.
MORE COULD BE ON THE WAY
The $10 million outlay for the "Open up a box, make up a snack" campaign could be just the beginning.
"If this works, we could keep on going," said Ms. Ambrosia.