PERDUE SCULPTS CONTEST FOR CHICKEN-LOVING KIDS: 'ARTIST OF YEAR' PROMO SEEKS NEW NUGGET SHAPE

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Perdue Farms wants to find the next Cezanne -- of chicken. The poultry marketer introduces a contest this week that invites kids to craft a new shape for Perdue Chicken Nuggets.

The promotion kicked off Sept. 19 with a newspaper insert targeted to 23 million households. It offers 3- to 12-year-olds the chance to become "Perdue's Masterpieces in Chicken Artist of the Year" and win a family trip to the Louvre in Paris. The company will insert the winning nugget shape in its Fun Shapes packages beginning in April.

The winner and five finalists will be invited to a Jan. 12 gala in New York at Soho's David Beitzel Gallery, where the top 100 entries will be on display. Perdue will promote the contest via its Web site (www.perdue.com) and on boxes of existing star-and drum-shaped Fun Shapes. It will also air radio spots on Radio Disney. Promotion agency Dugan Valva Contess, Morristown, N.J., developed the program.

BUILDING AWARENESS

"Masterpieces in Chicken" is part of the family-owned company's ongoing effort to build consumer awareness of its prepared products.

"The idea is to make the Perdue brand more convenient and relevant to consumers, since we've been known more for fresh chicken," said Wayne Phillips, the private company's director of marketing.

Perdue recently debuted a new ad campaign from Lowe & Partners, New York, which focuses on its variety of fully cooked chicken options. The campaign and the "Masterpieces" promotion are attempts to drive sales of value-added convenience items, a segment of the chicken category where Tyson Foods has been the clear leader.

PLAYING CATCH-UP

"Perdue has done a great job of distinguishing themselves in fresh chicken, in part by making the chicken yellow and also through very clever advertising over the years," said Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Dave Nelson. "But the upside for anybody is adding value and Tyson has been ahead of the curve there, with Perdue playing catch-up for the last 18 to 24 months."

The value-added arena -- which for Perdue includes such refrigerated items as Nuggets; a line of cooked, carved and seasoned chicken breast strips called Short Cuts; and Perdue Entrees -- has been growing about 3% to 4%, Mr. Nelson said.

"This promotion is a kind of 'experiential marketing,' getting kids involved so they'll be in a position to influence mom's purchasing decisions," Perdue's Mr. Phillips said.

Such "experiential marketing" is currently en vogue with other packaged goods marketers looking to get consumers to interact with their products. Kraft Foods this summer introduced a new consumer-developed barbecue sauce called Todd's Southwest Recipe. And just last week, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream announced its own consumer-involvement promotion, "Invent Jeff's Next Flavor," surrounding its tie

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