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Bacardi-Martini USA is trying to ignite consumer interest in its Disaronno amaretto brand with a new "Light a fire" ad campaign.

The $11 million effort, from McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., plays up sensuality and the amaretto's Italian heritage. Print and outdoor ads show matchbox covers that have photographs of couples in steamy poses. Classic Italian mosaics provide the backdrop for the ads.

"The strategy is Italian passion in a bottle -- it excites all the senses," said McKinney Executive Creative Director David Baldwin.

The print ads will break in June consumer magazines while outdoor executions will begin cropping up in 11 major markets this month.

There also will be a myriad of promotions and value-added packaging concepts to the campaign.


"It's a full top-to-bottom campaign," said Monsell Darville, group marketing manager for the importer.

For the first time, Disaronno amaretto will be targeted at the homosexual community. Print ads to run in The Advocate, Genre and Out feature two women loosely locked in a tender embrace.

Mr. Darville said the gay audience is vital.

"When you take the profile of the gay consumer, they are typically large consumers of premium products," he said. "Fortunately for us, Disaronno is a product they hold in high esteem."

Bacardi, which acquired import rights to Disaronno in July 1998, also is hoping to add some sizzle to the amaretto's image with this effort.

"The brand seemed tired and dusty," Mr. Darville said. "It wasn't getting much attention [under former importer Diageo] and it fell by the wayside. Consumers had basically forgotten about it."


While the brand was under Diageo's roof, in-house ads promoted the "mixability" of Disaronno. Ads showed the liquor being mixed in with coffee or orange juice.

Mr. Darville said a conscious effort was made to show the liquor straight or just on ice in this new campaign.

"Mixability is a tactical issue, something you address with promotions," he said, adding that the company's goal is to have consumers get to know the taste of Disaronno. "Once you love the base product, there's so many other ways to use it. We came to the conclusion that consumers should taste it for its true essence."

Bacardi also is trying to widen its consumer base by broadening the 35-to-49-year-old target audience to include the 25-year-old-plus age group.

"We're trying to make it more relevant to a younger audience," Mr. Baldwin said

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