Why Welch's Ditched the Kids for New Pitchman Alton Brown

Went With Food Network Star to Target Gen X Moms to Highlight Health Benefits of Grape Juice

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Welch's has tapped Food Network personality Alton Brown to make its case that grape juice is "Good Eats."

The quirky chef and Food Network host has gained a following for his scientific and humorous approach to food, something Chris Heye, VP-marketing at Welch's, said is key to capturing the company's target, Gen X moms. In response to consumers' desire for better-for-you brands, Welch's embarked on a repositioning last year. The brand's efforts are now focused on the health benefits of grape juice, and the new marketing represents the first significant effort to take that message to consumers.

"There's a tremendous groundswell of interest in what food and beverage can do for your health," said Mr. Heye.

Food for thought
Few can present the science of food in a more engaging way than Mr. Brown, whose show, "Good Eats," won a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcast news, education and entertainment last year.

The partnership with Mr. Brown is Welch's first brush with the entertainment biz. For a dozen years the brand relied on relatively unknown child actors to pitch its products. (Separately, Welch's is also embarking on a partnership with "The Doctors, " CBS' new syndicated talk show. The yearlong deal includes on-air tie-ins, as well as a branded microsite linked to the program's website.)

"Our campaign for 12 years was different talking kids," Mr. Heye said. "We were focused on taste, but we tried to say a lot of things. As we've repositioned the brand, we had to change who we talked to, what we said and how we reached her."

To that end, Welch's set its sights on a more adult approach. It hoped to speak to moms, using terms like "free radicals," "polyphenol" and "antioxidant" without coming across as clinical.

"We went back and forth with a lot of different concepts," said Greg Smith, chief creative officer at Welch's ad shop, the VIA Group. "What [Welch's] really wanted was something to up the credibility of the health claim, but they didn't want it to be a talking head."

Venturing online
Mr. Brown will be featured in an expansive new campaign for the brand, which encompasses print, television and online efforts. It is the first time the brand has embraced an online strategy, and it is the first significant print campaign in at least 12 years. The ads will run on cable and network shows, in magazines such as People, Parenting, Women's Health and Cooking Light and on sites including WebMD and Foodnetwork.com. The effort will lead to a "significant" increase from the $12 million spent on brand advertising last year, Mr. Heye said.

The ads introduce a new tagline, "Welch's. To health," and point out that Welch's helps support a healthy heart, mind and immune system. The juice is also touted as pure, with no sugar added.

Mr. Heye declined to discuss the details of Welch's partnership with Mr. Brown. The campaign is scheduled to run through next spring.

Still, with the economy in a tailspin it's a tricky time to launch a new campaign, particularly one that is a distinct departure from previous efforts. Mr. Heye admits that, like everyone else, the company is concerned about the economy. And he recognizes that in a bad economy the consumer is more discriminating. "We're a premium, value-added brand," he said. "If they're going to pay more money for our brand, we want to increase our value proposition and give them more reasons. That's what we think we're doing."

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