PAULUCCI RETURNS TO FREBERG FOR ADS

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A legendary marketing partnership-food entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci and adman Stan Freberg-is back in business.

More than 20 years after first teaming on Chun King commercials, Mr. Paulucci has again hired Los Angeles-based Freberg Ltd. to produce a series of radio spots for his Michelina's brand of frozen entrees.

The three commercials are set to break in Orlando next month. Mr. Paulucci's company, Luigino's, will test a three-week flight there and in a couple of undetermined markets. "If they work as well as I hope, we'll roll them out," Mr. Paulucci said.

After short but rocky relationships with Pedone & Partners, New York, and Hal Riney & Partners Heartland, Chicago, Mr. Paulucci said he decided "not to waste any more money on TV. I told the Riney people I wanted a `hit and run'-a campaign I could run six weeks and get people to try Michelina's. They gave me what I would call a sustaining campaign, but it didn't ring any cash registers."

The Riney TV spots told the story of Jeno and his mother, Michelina, and ran briefly in the spring. Mr. Paulucci initially refused to pay Riney for the work. After filing a lawsuit against Luigino's in July-prompting Mr. Paulucci to countersue-Riney got him to pay $800,000 of a $950,000 bill in an out-of-court settlement.

Michelina's sales rose 20%, to $160 million, for the year ended Oct. 9, according to Information Resources Inc.

"If we've done all this business without any advertising, to spend I have to find something that really works," Mr. Paulucci said. He said he chose radio because it's less expensive, but also because "Stan's strength is when he can do 60-second ads and tell a story."

The pair last teamed up in 1980, when Mr. Freberg produced spots for Jeno's frozen pizza.

During the '70s, the eccentric Los Angeles adman and the maverick Italian-American grocer's son-both independent operators-together created two leading food brands, Chun King and Jeno's pizza rolls. One droll Chun King TV commercial claimed that nine of 10 doctors recommended the packaged Chinese food line; of course, those nine were Chinese doctors.

Mr. Paulucci has always been a demanding client. In his 1988 autobiography, Mr. Freberg recalled a bet: Mr. Paulucci promised to pull the adman down Los Angeles' LaCienega Boulevard in a rickshaw if a commercial actually worked. Mr. Freberg won the bet and the rickshaw ride.

In addition to the Michelina's line, Duluth, Minn.-based Luigino's last year introduced Yu Sing, a line of 12 frozen Chinese entrees. The company is in the process of rolling out Yu Sing Restaurant-Style Entrees.

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