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Amana Appliances, out of sight and out of mind with consumers, is counting on humor and a fattened ad budget to revive sales.

In a $20 million campaign that breaks today, Amana features women poking fun at overstuffed refrigerators and other everyday home hassles. The TV, print and Internet effort carries a new tagline: "Built better than it has to be."

The campaign is the first for the marketer from DDB Worldwide, New York.


The new ads come at a crucial time. Sales of home appliances have been rising steadily. Last year, 56.6 million major appliances were shipped, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. That's up 31.3% from 1991.

"People are replacing appliances more often and remodeling their kitchens more than ever," said Jim Hodl, a contributor to and former editor of Appliance Service News.

He credits a strong economy and technological advances.

But Amana is fifth in sales of so-called white goods such as refrigerators, freezers, ovens and dishwashers, according to tracking service Intelect ASW. Maytag Corp., Whirlpool Corp., General Electric Corp. and Frigidaire Home Products occupy the top four spots.

Amana has been around since 1934 but the brand has since dropped off consumers' radars.

"A lot of older folks knew Amana but wondered where it went, while the younger group has never heard of it," said DDB Account Supervisor Barry Lott.

Weak ad spending may be part of the problem. The new campaign is the largest ever for the appliance marketer. Previous owner Raytheon Co. spent just $6 million to advertise the brand in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Goodman Holdings Co., which bought the company in 1997, spent less than $1 million last year while it sought a new agency.

The new ads all show women offering humorous takes on home appliances. One spot features Deborah Wilson of Fox's "Mad TV."

DDB Group Creative Director Janet Guillet said the casting call was "for people who could bring everyday insights to life."


DDB New York Co-Chief Creative Officer David Nathanson said the humorous approach makes the brand more approachable.

Amana "is engineering these products around the way people really use them," he said. "We put a face on it."

Ms. Guillet said she's not intimidated by Amana's low profile. "We had the opportunity to be different and almost be a new brand to people who haven't heard of Amana," she said. "You almost have a clean slate to create a

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