Welch's tries juicing sales by splattering men with grapes

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Welch's, whose ads have long portrayed smiling kids and docile grape farmers, is about to get gritty as it zeros in on a new marketing target: Gen X men.

The star of one new ad is a hulking metal machine that pulverizes grapes into smithereens. Another darkly-lit spot touts the juice as containing "the world's toughest antioxidants" by showing a man whose face is splattered in juice.

The campaign, called "Tough as Grapes," is messy—and a far cry from the brand's most recent advertising, which featured sunshine, soft music and farmers quietly talking about the health benefits of grape juice along with footage of happy families. The old ads mirrored the marketing conventions juice brands have followed for decades.

"We call it the 'chirping birds and smiling kids strategy' that women have been seeing for 50 years," says Lesya Lysyj, Welch's U.S. president. But as more moms abandon juice because of sugar concerns, the old ad approach no longer works.

Welch's shelf stable juice sales fell 5.6 percent on a dollar basis for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, according to a report from Wells Fargo, which tracks the brand's sales by its parent company, the National Grape Cooperative Association, the farmers' organization that harvests the brand's grapes.

Welch's and its new agency, Barton F. Graf, are going after Gen X men because they are proven to be more loyal to juice. According to Welch's research, 73% of Gen X men still drink juice with breakfast. And they buy 17 bottles of juice a year, compared with 10 bottles for the average buyer.

"We felt like in order to make people notice and reconsider us, especially this guy consumer, we had to speak to him in the way he wants to be talked to," Lysyj says.

The grape-crushing machine in the ads, nicknamed "el diablo," which is Spanish for devil, is from a Welch's plant in Yakima Valley, Washington. The brand uses Concord grapes and crushes the entirety of each one, including the skin and seed. That ensures the juice contains more antioxidants, according to Lysyj. Antioxidants are said to help fight diseases.

The male-targeted creative approach is supported with a new media-buying strategy that includes buys during National Football League coverage and in Howard Stern's satellite radio show. Previously, Welch's bought ads in family/parenting and women's lifestyle programing.

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