Red Baron, at 40, Plans 40 Weeks of Pizza Night Nostalgia

Schwan Brand Hopes to Heat Up Frozen Food Sales

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Frozen pizza brand Red Baron is rolling out a 40-week marketing push as its parent company, Schwan Food, aims to revive sales of its biggest consumer food brand and frozen food in general.

Schwan is increasing marketing spending for the third consecutive year as the food maker and the retailers it sells to try to entice consumers to buy more frozen foods, said CEO Dimitrios Smyrnios.

"The frozen category has been challenged," admits Mr. Smyrnios. "We feel like if we create good, compelling advertising the consumer is going to walk down the aisle and everybody wins in that environment, including us."

A Red Baron campaign has the potential to have a big impact at Schwan. The 40-year old pizza brand accounts for 50% of sales in the Schwan's Consumer Brands division.

Red Baron's "Timeless" campaign begins on Feb. 15 with a TV commercial and a variety of digital details planned as the 40 weeks progress. The 30-second spot begins with a family sitting down to a pizza dinner in the 1970s and progresses to present day, with the daughter from the first scene becoming a mom who serves her own family Red Baron pizza.

The work comes from Space150, the agency of record for seven of Schwan's Consumer Brands, following the shop's work on the company's Bon Appetit pizza launch. Space150 is handling creative work and media buying.

The "Timeless" campaign follows Red Baron's "Love at First Bite" marketing from BoomAgers, which Tim Goldsmid, Schwan's Consumer Brands senior director of brand marketing, called "very successful."

Schwan is now allocating 40% of its marketing budget to digital work, up from just 6% in 2013, Mr. Smyrnios said. The Red Baron campaign is expected to be 54% TV and 46% digital, Mr. Goldsmid said. Each week will focus on a different year, beginning with 1976 and progressing to 2016 with plans for Instagram and Facebook, as well as other elements.

Along with the new campaign, other marketing efforts have included coupons, sampling and naming rights on a hockey facility in Marshall, Minn., where Schwan began.

Schwan, a privately-held company with about $3 billion in annual sales, declined to share specific Red Baron sales data. Still, Mr. Smyrnios said "Red Baron last year kept up with the category," aided by the introduction of a brick oven variety in March.

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