POWERBAR, WIEDEN RUN WITH ANTI-'BONK' EFFORT: $20 MILLION PUSH TAKES FUNNY LOOK AT THE PITFALLS OF LOSING ENERGY

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PowerBar, hoping to have enough energy to compete in a changing market, today launches a $20 million humorous advertising campaign centered on bonking, an athletes' term for a condition when low blood sugar leads to shaky limbs and mental fuzziness.

Tagged "Don't bonk," the first spot-bowing on national coverage of the Boston Marathon-shows typical footage of a runner close to winning a race. When he gets to the finish line, however, he doesn't have enough energy to break the tape.

This is the first work for the marketer from new agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Two other spots, airing later, show the effect of bonking on non-athletes. In one, a pallbearer allows a coffin to drop and a body to roll down a flight of steps.

The commercials, generally airing during sports programming on broadcast, cable and spot TV, will be followed in June by a radio campaign to run nationally and a print campaign in July issues of magazines.

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PowerBar was the originator of the $250 million energy-bar category and holds a 50% share, according to the company. The rapidly growing business has been flooded with new products, some of them more like traditional snacks than athletic performance enhancers.

"We don't want [PowerBar] to become a food company," said Chuck McBride, creative director at Wieden. "They're a fuel company. They make equipment for athletes."

PowerBar competitor Clif Bar has introduced energy bars with cookies 'n cream and carrot cake flavors.

Another rival, Balance Bar, also has a new agency, Suissa Miller, Los Angeles. First work for that brand will break on cable TV in June and be supported with a print campaign. In February, Balance Bar began promoting Total Balance, a new canned drink, to distributors.

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