Ragu 'Simmered in Tradition' In First Work With Havas

R&B Foods Picked Havas in June, Ragu Commercials Show Brand's History

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Ragu went back to its start for a new advertising campaign that quickly tells the story of its founder, who sold sauce from her front porch during the Great Depression.

The spots, which began airing Monday, are the first work on the brand from Havas Worldwide Chicago, which won the account in late June.

Michelle Tucker, group creative director on the Ragu account at Havas Worldwide Chicago, said the campaign came together quickly after R&B Foods gave the agency a "really great brief" to work from.

Ragu, the top-selling pasta sauce in the U.S., traces its history back to the 1930s, when Assunta Cantisano sold sauce from her front porch in Rochester, N.Y., to help support her family during the Great Depression.

The new advertising has a vintage look but is also more contemporary with a rapid drumbeat playing in the background as the history of the brand is quickly recapped with a stacatto voiceover. "Times change, taste doesn't," the voice says. The spot depicts Ms. Cantisano, and later, a modern woman, stirring sauce on the stove.

"One thing that we wanted to make sure was that it didn't feel like a history lesson or was a dusty story in any way," said Ms. Tucker.

Ragu and sister brand Bertolli were sold by Unilever in 2014 to Japanese food maker Mizkan Group, which runs the brands in a subsidiary called R&B Foods.

"Since acquiring Ragu last year, we've been working to reinvigorate this beloved sauce brand," said Dan O'Leary, vp-marketing at R&B Foods, said in a statement. "We've always been excited about the untapped potential of the inspiring story of Ragu's founder, Assunta Cantisano. We believe the new advertising brings this story to life in a way that's a real tribute to a woman who was a true pioneer."

Ms. Tucker said that R&B also wanted to find a way to connect with millennial moms who are digging into their own roots, and to the "emotional release" people get from learning about their heritage and family traditions.

Ragu will also be promoting the brand through social outlets such as Facebook and Pinterest and will run Spanish-language versions of the commercial to appeal to Hispanic millennial moms. Additional 15-second spots will be launching in the near future, focusing on aspects such as fresh taste and ingredients, which do not include artificial colors, flavors or high fructose corn syrup.

Under Unilever, Ragu's advertising in recent years had been handled by agencies including Ogilvy and Barton F. Graf 9000. Ragu got $18.9 million in measured media support in 2014, up from $6.7 million in 2013, according to Kantar Media. Spending on Bertolli has been minimal.

Havas Worldwide Chicago is starting the planning process for new Bertolli advertising, which is likely to air in early 2016, Ms. Tucker said.

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