RALSTON, CLOROX TRYING NEW TACTIC IN PET MARKET COMPETITIVE CATEGORY GROWS TO $800 MIL BIZ

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Ralston Purina Co. and Clorox Co. are appealing to the funny bone, rather than just the nose, in new campaigns for their cat litter brands.

The advertising relies on humor, deviating from the traditional tack of focusing on the embarrassment associated with having a smelly litter box.

In TV spots for Ralston's renamed Tidy Cats, felines debate the merits of a product strong enough for use with multiple cats; in Clorox's advertising for Fresh Step, cats throw away inferior brands of litter.

Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, created the Tidy Cats spots, which broke July 19 on "Dateline NBC." One voice in the spots is that of Jonathan Katz of Comedy Central's "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist."

1 BOX, MANY CATS

The campaign, tagged "Multiple strengths for multiple cats," is the first ad support for the renamed brand. Formerly Tidy Cat, the product has been repackaged and reformulated to control odor in homes with more than one cat.

"There are a lot of talking-animal spots out there. If you're going to cut through and get noticed," a marketer needs distinctive humor, said Creative Director Izzy DeBellis.

Tidy Cats print ads break in the August issues of magazines including InStyle, People and Shape.

Ralston spends an estimated $10 million to $15 million annually to support the brand.

Clorox is spending an estimated $8 million for its new Fresh Step campaign. The national TV and print effort, via Y&R Advertising, San Francisco, attacks discounted competitors.

FELINES TAKE ACTION

TV spots on network and cable kicked off last week. In one spot, a cat pushes the litter its owner just bought on sale out the window and into a waiting garbage truck.

In a print ad, showing a pair of paws dumping a litter pan out a pet door, copy says other litter brands "just might be shown the door." Print breaks in August. Ads are tagged "Fresher with every step."

Both brands have been performing well in the $800 million market. Tidy Cat saw sales rise 8.7% to $204.7 million in supermarkets and other outlets, excluding pet superstores, for the 52-week period ended June 21, according to Information Resources Inc. Fresh Step's sales rose 4.8% to $130.1 million.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.

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