P&G PREPARING FOR NEW TIDE APPROACH: EMOTIONAL APPEAL OF LAUNDRY TO REPLACE PERFORMANCE CLAIMS IN ADS

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Procter & Gamble Co., preparing a massive campaign and new creative approach for Tide detergent for the second quarter, appears to be signaling its coming approach in a transition spot.

The new commercial breaks on a surprising new venue for Tide -- the Super Bowl pre-game show.

The spot shows no housewives and does not include the top-selling brand's current tagline.

AD SPENDING JUMP

P&G has slated a sharp upturn in ad spending for Tide, up from the estimated $62 million doled out last year. Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, New York, is the Tide agency.

The setting of the 30-second spot is compatible with its high-power programming environment, and its spokesman is a former athlete -- one-time major league baseball player and now high school athletic director "Buzz" Nitschke.

The theme is "If you look like a winner, you play like a winner," with high school football, women's volleyball and men's baseball teams featured in the spot. Also lacking is the famous "If it's gotta be clean, it's gotta be Tide."

P&G watchers believe the commercial may give a clue to Tide's new direction, which aims to focus less on performance claims and more on the emotions associated with clean, fresh laundry.

Tide's current "Experts" campaign includes various professionals ranging from restaurant owners to managers at Oshkosh B'Gosh.

P&G DOWNPLAYS

A P&G spokesman denied the spot was a major departure, noting that the company has for the past year tried to go beyond superior performance claims "and begins to touch on an emotional appeal for the clothes."

He confirmed this is the first time Tide has appeared in Super Bowl programming.

Burt Flickinger, a consultant with Reach Marketing, said a spot in the Super Bowl pre-game show is a major event for Tide.

"It's an interesting strategic shift that puts them significantly ahead of Lever, Dial and Church & Dwight," he said. "From an image standpoint, it's a real breakthrough."

The upcoming ad revamp on the brand, recently market tested, appears to have turned the tide for Saatchi & Saatchi.

"P&G has been pushing Saatchi to be more creative in its communication for Tide," said Mr. Flickinger.

SAATCHI SHAKY EARLIER

A year ago, Saatchi & Saatchi was considered by agency executives to be in trouble on the account.

"Flagship brand Tide was shaky in the U.S.," said one former Saatchi & Saatchi executive. "Around the time Ivory walked out the door, Tide was soft. But by the end of 1997, market share was booming. The turnaround was a big factor in Saatchi's keeping a good relationship with P&G, because when Tide sneezes, the whole company catches a cold."

That's also reflected in recent market share figures for Tide liquid, up substantially, according to Information Resources Inc. In food, drug and mass merchandisers for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 28, the brand's share of the $2.2 billion liquid laundry detergent category was 31.8%, up 18.2% in sales over 1996, at $688.7 million.

TIDE SALES STRONG

Even in the $2.2 billion powdered segment, which has taken a pounding, Tide's sales were up a marginal 0.2%, to $937.1 million, giving it a 43% share. The segment as a whole was down 1.8%, IRI said.

With the new campaign, P&G hopes to give not just Tide but the whole category a lift.

"Tide is the flagship of the fleet," said Mr. Flickinger. "As Tide goes, so goes the soap sector."

MEDIA HIKES

At the Paine Webber media conference late last year, then-Cordiant CEO Bob Seelert told analysts the marketer would hike its media outlays for the brand substantially this year. Cordiant, once the parent of Saatchi & Saatchi, has since been split up; Mr. Seelert is now CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi.

For the 10 months of 1997, P&G spent $58.2 million in measured media for Tide, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Contributing: Jack Neff, Laura Petrecca.

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