OSCAR MAYER PLANS TACO BELL-BRANDED LUNCHABLES PRODUCT: AUGUST LAUNCH SUPPORTED BY $10 MIL IN ADS

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In a major co-branding push, Kraft Foods is leveraging its Oscar Mayer Lunchables with its licensed Taco Bell name for a new product to be backed with an estimated $8 million to $10 million in advertising.

Oscar Mayer Lunchables Taco Bell tacos and Taco Bell nachos will be introduced nationally by August. The phased rollout begins in Detroit, where a TV spot breaks today.

The commercial is one of three spots that will be airing nationally by summer's end.

MOST PROMINENT EFFORT

"While we've done other co-branding with a lot of powerful Kraft names, this is among the most prominent and certainly the biggest in the short life of Lunchables," said Mark Zander, Lunchables business director.

While Mr. Zander wouldn't give promotional spending details, the company put up $9 million in measured media during the launch of Lunchables Pizza, its last major line extension.

Altogether, Oscar Mayer Foods spent $18 million on Lunchables advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

ADS FROM JWT

The ad campaign is being handled by Lunchables agency J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, although the agency for the Kraft's Taco Bell grocery line is Bozell, Costa Mesa, Calif.

The first commercial has a humorous Old West theme. A young boy-dressed in full cowboy regalia-challenges Mom to "Go ahead, make my lunch."

The tagline adopted for the new campaign will be Lunchables' first: "Make fun of lunch."

Mr. Zander said the first two spots in the pool will use "mom appeal" while the third is aimed at kids. Print and in-store advertising will be used.

"This product was developed by kids and for kids," he said, noting that children in focus groups initially came up with the idea of Mexican-style Lunchables.

Mr. Zander said that, according to NPD Group's National Eating Trends Survey, consumption of Mexican foods among kids rose 50% last year.

ESTABLISHED MEXICAN BRAND

Moreover, having a ready-made established brand name in Mexican food was a huge advantage, Mr. Zander said.

This is the third major line extension of Lunchables, first introduced in 1989. The company launched its pizza variety in 1995 and brought out an adult-oriented, sandwich-style Lunchables line called Deli-Carryouts late last year (AA, Nov. 11).

Lunchables is a huge business. Information Resources Inc. puts Oscar Mayer Lunchables' sales for the 52 weeks ended March 2 at $365 million, up 18.5%, with Sara Lee Corp.'s Jimmy Dean brand the nearest competitor in the lunches category, with $51 million.

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