Chicken of the Sea hires David & Goliath to revitalize the brand

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An image from a Chicken of the Sea ad last year.
An image from a Chicken of the Sea ad last year. Credit: Chicken of the Sea

Chicken of the Sea hired David & Goliath as its creative agency of record as the marketer of canned tuna and other seafood products tries to give its smaller brand a more modern voice.

Van Camp Seafood began canning fish in 1914 and later changed its name to Chicken of the Sea in reference to how some fisherman described canned white albacore, because of its mild flavor and similar color. While it's been around for more than 100 years, however, Chicken of the Sea is a distant No. 3 in the market, with annual sales that are roughly one-third as large as StarKist, which has a commanding lead in shelf-stable seafood, according to data from Euromonitor International.

Now Chicken of the Sea has a challenger spirit, according to David Angelo, David & Goliath's founder and chairman.

"We all remember the mermaid, right?" says Angelo, referring to the brand's mascot. "I grew up with this brand as a kid back when we didn't have a thousand channels and cell phones, back when tuna was a pretty important part of our family's diet."

Decades of Chicken of the Sea ads featured the mermaid character. It first appeared on packaging in 1952, followed in 1960 by the "Ask any mermaid" jingle. The mermaid got a name, Catalina, in 2014.

So, will the old mermaid jingle return? "Let me get back to you on that," Angelo says, declining to get into specifics.

Chicken of the Sea got a brief moment of reality-TV glory in 2003, when Jessica Simpson asked of it, "Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish?"

The account win includes strategy and creative, as well as media planning and buying, which David & Goliath says it will work on in partnership with Canvas Worldwide. Chicken of the Sea, which is owned by Thai Union Group, says E29 Marketing handled integrated marketing efforts for the brand from 2014 until March.

Diego Isaza, VP of marketing, Chicken of the Sea, says his team wants to revitalize the brand and introduce it to a new generation.

In 2017, Chicken of the Sea tested an ad campaign that played on the chicken-or-fish question, featuring a talking chicken discussing the brand.

Rough seas

Even with the rising interest in protein-packed diets, each of the three leading shelf-stable seafood brands saw sales declines in 2017 and 2016, with Chicken of the Sea losing more ground than StarKist and Bumble Bee, according to Euromonitor. Its data shows Chicken of the Sea's 2017 sales fell 1.6 percent, to $242.4 million, StarKist fell 0.8 percent to $733.3 million and Bumble Bee fell 0.2 percent to $481.9 million.

Angelo says Chicken of the Sea will do incremental advertising in multiple channels. Chicken of the Sea's U.S. measured media spending plunged to $513,500 in 2017 from $2 million in 2016, according to data from Kantar Media. StarKist spent about $16.3 million on measured media in 2017, down from $17.5 million in 2016. StarKist recently began running ads featuring actress Candace Cameron Bure for its new chicken pouch products. (Yes, that tuna company actually is selling chicken.)

Innocean Worldwide's David & Goliath has one other client in the food industry, fast feeder Jack in the Box. Its last packaged food client was Popchips.

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