This week Isla Ng, 6, becomes the third precocious kid to gulp the juice and smack her lips with pleasure in the six-year-old TV campaign. She follows Travis Tedford and Emily Mae Young, who each outgrew the "Welch Kid" role by age 8.
Scripts for the four spots featuring Ms. Ng continue to highlight the unique flavor of grape juice as a selling point, but they also subtly stoke baby-boomer-aged mothers' sense of nostalgia. "I remember the first time I ever had Welch's grape juice. Hmm, I think I was five," Ms. Ng says in one spot. "Ever since I always drink it nice and slow. Mmmmm, grapey!"
Peter Martin, Welch's VP-marketing, said, "The flavor and the image of Welch's-especially the purple grape juice-bring back fond memories of when you were a child. So you now see a whole new group of kids having that same powerful feeling you did."
The $12 million to $15 million TV campaign, from Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/Euro RSCG, New York, is scheduled to run on national networks and cable channels including TBS, Fox Family and the Disney Channel beginning Nov. 30. Jordan McGrath has served as Welch's agency of record since 1979, and created the Welch Kid concept in 1994.
"The inherent strength of it is we refresh the campaign every time we come up with a new kid," said Denny O'Hearn, senior VP-group director at Jordan McGrath.
Ms. Ng topped 1,300 other children who auditioned for the Welch Kid role during a monthlong national search.
"Our simple idea is to find kids who are cute, charming and precocious. The age of innocence-the three to five age range-finds kids naturally able to give a most shining performance," Mr. O'Hearn said.
While an entire kindergarten class from Culver City, Calif., and a young Shania Twain impersonator were among wannabe Welch kids, Ms. Ng, a native of Staten Island, N.Y., was the unanimous choice.
Since Welch's, also known as the National Grape Cooperative Association, launched the original "Memories" campaign, the company claims it has seen sales of its bottled-juice line increase 59%, and its unaided brand awareness grow from 25% to 33%.
"There is clear evidence that when we are on the air the base of our business goes up quite nicely," Mr. Martin said.
The brand claimed about 4% of fruit-beverage market revenues in 1999, up from 3% in 1995, according to Gary Hemphill, senior VP, Beverage Marketing Corp., New York. Other top brands in the $18.6 billion category include Minute Maid, Tropicana, Ocean Spray and Florida's Natural Growers.
"Welch's has been doing extremely well, and when it comes to grape juice [it is] by far the leading brand," Mr. Hemphill said.
Welch's print and radio campaigns spotlight the nutritional benefits of its grape-based products, as will the interactive ads scheduled to break on family.com and americanbaby.com by year-end.
In total, Welch's spent $19.5 million in measured media in 1999 supporting its fruit juices and fruit-flavored drinks, according to Competitive Media Reporting.