SARA LEE URGES DAILY INDULGENCE IN $15 MIL EFFORT: ADS RECOGNIZE EATING HABITS HAVE CHANGED

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Sara Lee Bakery is boosting spending to $15 million to support its first umbrella ad campaign in almost a decade.

"Add some delicious to your life" is the theme line of the print and TV campaign from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, which breaks on network TV and in print today. Ads will support all Sara Lee's frozen bakery products, including coffee cake, pound cake, pies and two new lines planned for national rollout early in January, Cheesecake Bites and Cheesecake Singles.

CONSOLIDATION WRAPPING UP

The campaign arrives as parent Sara Lee Corp. comes close to wrapping up a consolidation of its $100 million media buying work, a review among MediaCom and Optimum Media, both New York, in addition to Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, pitching with sibling Western International Media, West Hollywood, Calif. A decision is expected by early November at the latest.

"Our research found Sara Lee was one of those golden brand names," said Rhea Keenan, VP-account planning director at FCB. "But consumers didn't find it relevant in terms of how they live today."

Greg Shearson, VP-marketing and research and development at Sara Lee Bakery, said consumers are more often grabbing a dessert to eat in front of the TV at 9 p.m. rather than sitting down to a cake after dinner at the table.

SCRAMBLING FOR NEW STRATEGY

"No one eats dessert as a family anymore," he said.

That has left Sara Lee scrambling to find a new strategy to make its products more indulgent, immediate and individual.

"This new direction is just the beginning of our commitment to growing the Sara Lee brand exponentially over the next three years," Mr. Shearson said, noting the company is moving aggressively into new-product development to meet changing consumer needs.

He wouldn't discuss specifics, but indicated the new efforts might go beyond desserts.

"We're a broad company, in a lot of categories now, not just desserts or sweet goods," he said.

A REASON TO CELEBRATE

The aim of the campaign overall-its last such effort featured the Sara Lee character and ran seven to 10 years ago, according to Mr. Shearson-is to offer consumers a reason to indulge themselves and celebrate small occasions. To that end, ads show people interacting with one another through food.

"The advertising can remind people that there are special moments every day," said Susan Bertocchi, VP-creative director at FCB.

It's clear Sara Lee's failure to recognize changing consumer attitudes affected its market share. According to Information Resources Inc., the $379.9 million frozen sweet goods category-excluding cheesecakes-was up 3.8% for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 13. Within that, Sara Lee-the No. 3 player behind Pillsbury Co. and Pepperidge Farm-saw its sales drop 2.6%, to $71.9 million.

In cheesecakes during the same period, leader Sara Lee saw sales fall 7.6% to $36.6 million. The category, meanwhile, dropped by less, 5.6%, to $55.9 million.

Sara Lee said it is discontinuing a strategy of licensing Looney Tunes characters to build a base with kids in cakes and bagels.

"It's not our focus . . . or our core competency," Mr. Shearson said. "We've moved on."

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