With Sales Up, Starbucks Rolls Out Two Ad Campaigns

Chain Pushes Via and Frappuccino Products in 'Next Level' TV-Online Integration Launch

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Not long ago, it was a news event when Starbucks elected to run a TV ad. This week the resurgent chain is launching two campaigns in one week, for the national grocery launch of Via, its instant coffee product, and customizable Frappuccino beverages in store.

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"It's the next level for Starbucks," said Chris Bruzzo, VP-brand, content and online. "It's a level of integration and activity in the marketplace that is much more significant than we've ever done before."

The reason, Mr. Bruzzo said, goes back to the business results. After two years of slipping sales, Starbucks posted its first same-store sales increase in January, up 4%, and even stronger gains, 7%, when it reported first-quarter earnings last month. And after two years of working on the basics, Starbucks is ready to move forward, with initiatives in its cafes and on the consumer-products side of the business.

And while it's coincidental that Starbucks is conducting near-simultaneous advertising launches, Mr. Bruzzo said, it won't be an uncommon amount of activity for Starbucks moving forward. Starbucks agencies are creative shop BBDO, media agency PHD, both of New York, and digital shop Blast Radius, Vancouver.

Mr. Bruzzo said Starbucks "will continue to go to market" in "our unique way which leverages the Starbucks brand, the experience that our customers have with us, the relationships that they have with our partner in our stores," and "the kind of relationships we have with customers online." While there will be more TV in the mix, Starbucks will continue to put more weight in "digital and earned online experiences," he said.

But as Starbucks builds on its foundation of loyal coffee snobs, it's increasingly segmenting its marketing efforts. Ads for customizable Frappuccino, launched during the CW's "Gossip Girl" this week, target 18- to 29-year-olds. Frappuccino became a $2 billion business for Starbucks following its launch in the mid-1990s, and the chain is now seeking to reboot the franchise, by offering variations on the ice-blended cappuccino beverage, with soy or non-fat milk, extra shots, various flavors or sugar-free syrups.

The chain is partnering with the CW in an online contest to combine show footage, images of Frappuccino ingredients, and various transitions and music into one advertisement. The winning submission will air during the "Gossip" season finale.

By contrast, TV spots for Via, from BBDO breaking Friday, focus on career types, referring to them by the coffee cup they use at the office, such as "Know It All," "Single and Loving It" and "Ladies Man." Mr. Bruzzo noted that while Via has a specific audience -- consumers who buy premium-brand consumer products at grocery -- they may be aged 18-59.

Via, which launched in test markets last spring, has exceeded sales expectations from the get-go, the company has said. But Starbucks has not broken out specific sales results. As the product expands from 12,000 Starbucks cafes and select retail chains, Via will be in more than 37,000 retail locations by the end of June, and Starbucks, therefore, expects strong sales gains. The company is also said to expect strong advertising support for Via in the third quarter of this year. While the chain's CPG business has to date been a licensing and joint-ventures channel, Via is a Starbucks product from end to end. This is Starbucks first concerted advertising push aimed at grocery customers.

Starbucks' first TV ad aired over Thanksgiving weekend in 2007. After that, the chain didn't advertise on TV again for about a year, when BBDO was hired to run the creative business. At the outset, TV advertising has been stepped up, with occasional "brand sparks," one-time TV ads with online components, often encouraging consumers to participate in a civic or volunteer activity. Starbucks began national TV advertising for Via last fall, when the product hit its cafes nationwide. At the time, it was Starbucks' most extensive TV advertising push in the company's history.

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