Ms. Rockmore, 35, marketing director for Lipton Mealmakers, came back to the U.S. just as Sizzle & Stir debuted. TV commercials from New York agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (49% owned by Bcom3 Group) were tagged "Surprisingly real" and focused on how the convenience of Sizzle & Stir solved real families' problems. The product offers eight skillet dinner combinations that can be prepared in 20 minutes by adding meat or poultry to vegetables or cheese.
That helped build a $30 million-a-year business, but Unilever was looking for more. So under Ms. Rockmore's direction, the Lipton marketing team and Bartle took a turn for the surprisingly surreal. New ads that broke in February feature oddball "families" of mismatched celebrities-such as Loni Anderson and Mr. T as mom and dad, with George Hamilton and Mary Lou Retton as kids-and the tagline "When you cook, you're a family."
Calls to Lipton's toll-free line are up, and so are sales, now on course to reach $40 million annually, Ms. Rockmore says.
The Unilever executive has a history of shaking things up. As a product manager in 1995, Ms. Rockmore created the first package-goods Web site, building Ragu.com around a fictional Italian mother.
Like the new ads, Ragu.com aims to make marketing enjoyable enough that consumers opt in, Ms. Rockmore says, "because at the end of the day, you can't force advertising on the consumer. ... The similarity we've seen is a built-in affection for the brands."