PUBLIX DISPLAYS YOUTHFUL APPETITE

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Publix Super Markets is considering infomercials as the next ingredient in the future of marketing foods to kids.

The Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer last month unveiled a 25-minute commercial targeting 5- to 10-year-olds, hoping to get young viewers to push their parents to shop at Publix.

"Soup To Nuts," created by WestGroup, Tampa, was tested in the Tampa and Atlanta markets during Saturday and Sunday morning programming. The agency and client are now studying wider use of the program.

The infomercial covered nutrition, kitchen safety and food preparation, and was designed to excite and inform viewers from kindergarten to age 10, said Fulton Smith-Sykes, WestGroup senior VP. Orlando actor Jonathan Magnum and Memphis chef Delores Grisanti Katosis, as "Chef Dough-Dough," explained the nutritional benefits of potatoes and showed simple recipes children could prepare with their parents.

An upbeat, eclectic style was used to keep kids' attention, said Ms. Smith-Sykes. Though girls responded more favorably to the concept in follow-up focus groups, boys said they, too, were entertained, she said.

The hope was to attract children to the kitchen, and in turn impress parents with the grocery chain's attention to youth, said Jennifer Bush, Publix's director-media relations. "We saw that it was a new, different approach," Ms. Bush said.

As parents' roles change and family members share responsibilities, pitching to children becomes an important marketing ingredient, said Selina Guber, president of Children's Market Research, a New York consultancy, and author of "Marketing to & Through Kids."

Marketing food and fitness in an exciting format to the youth market will become a trend in the '90s, Ms. Guber said. Grocery marketers and retailers that pitch successfully to kids will gain brand awareness and consumer loyalty from kids and parents.

While some grocers have used in-store programs to attract children, Publix is the first to use the long-form commercial to make food and preparation exciting, Ms. Guber said.

"They're really onto something here," she said. "If it's not overly commercialized, parents will also appreciate the message that is getting across to their kids."

Aside from the company logo displayed at the opening, the program itself featured no on-air name or product promotion, and Publix sought no co-op marketing assistance from product marketers, Ms. Smith-Sykes said.

The grocer did run its own ads during the infomercial.

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