WHIRLPOOL, MAYTAG ADS SUPPORT NEW BRANDED WASHERS: TV CAMPAIGNS TOUT IMPROVED PERFORMANCE

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A face-off between Whirlpool Corp. and Maytag Corp. starts in earnest this week, with as much as $30 million being invested collectively on ads supporting two completely new washing machines.

Whirlpool is spending $18 million behind both a branding effort for home appliances and the launch of its Ultimate Care washer, beginning Sept. 17. The budget marks its largest outlay in a single quarter and the marketer's first appearance on TV this year.

Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., created two spots for the TV blitz, breaking during "3rd Rock From the Sun" on NBC and running on network and cable through December. One is the general branding spot; the other is for the new washing machine that can handle both large loads and smaller, dainty hand-washables.

Music links the spots, with both using the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do."

"We'll create an overall umbrella for the brand that we hadn't done before," said Skip Layton, director of brand advertising at Whirlpool. "We feel we are really going to highlight the performance of our appliances with busy women."

FOCUSING ON WOMEN'S LIVES

The branding commercial focuses on women's busy daily lives. It shows montages of out-of-home activities plus women with their Whirlpool dishwashers, refrigerators, ranges and washing machines.

"Whirlpool helps you do the things you need to do, so you can do the things you want to do-that's a job well done," says the voice-over.

Maytag, meanwhile, started airing a 60-second spot-its first commercial of that length since 1967-in early September for its high-efficiency Neptune washer.

Neptune, Maytag executives said, has product innovations completely new to the market.

"There's been no major platform change in washers in nearly 50 years," since the advent of the automatic washer in 1948, said John Thomas, director of advertising.

FIRST OF ITS KIND

Neptune is the first of its kind because it offers 25% more capacity than a normal top loader; uses half the water and energy of other washers; and washes clothes more gently while still providing superior stain removal and cleaning power.

Mr. Thomas said Neptune is the first in the U.S. with a high-load capacity and special tilt drum feature. The washer is priced at $1,000, or about double that of conventional washers.

He wouldn't discuss spending on Neptune, other than to say it would top Maytag's ad spending on its other washers. Maytag spent $10 million in 1996, as measured by Competitive Media Reporting.

The TV campaign initially will run this month and then repeat in the first quarter of 1998. Mr. Thomas said the reason for that schedule is that the company has sold almost 3,000 units to date, putting the squeeze on capacity. That demand was created by what he called a "pre-sell" direct mail and Internet effort in February.

To introduce Neptune, Maytag and Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, played on the machine's otherworldly name and technological edge with a outer space-themed commercial. In the spot, the dependable Maytag repairman-a fixture in the company's advertising for 30 years-is walking his dog when he happens to spy a flying saucer that beams down a washing machine, strips him down to his underwear and whisks the clothes into the washer.

'PERFORMANCE-BASED CAMPAIGN'

"It's a performance-based product and a performance-based campaign," said Mr. Thomas, who noted Maytag has been working to create more creative, high-tech style advertising for most of its lines, including dishwashers and ranges, to highlight the company's innovation.

"This is the beginning of more advertising of this nature," he said.

According to Maytag, the washing machine market stands at about 6 million units annually. Whirlpool is believed to be the category leader, while Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s Kenmore brand comes in No. 2. Maytag and General Electric Co. vie for

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