Campbell readies ad push to revive ailing V8 Splash

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V8 Splash, the shining star of Campbell Soup Co.'s otherwise middling portfolio, has hit hard times.

Hoping to rebound from double-digit sales declines for the beverage brand, Campbell is trying a new advertising effort next month aimed at broadening V8 Splash's appeal to adult audiences.

Initial sales for the fruity extension of Campbell's V8 tomato cocktail product exceeded company expectations, rocketing to $111 million a little more than a year after its May 1997 launch. But in the last year Splash has faltered. Sales plunged 12.3% to $159 million for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 13, according to Information Resources Inc.


In fact, Campbell's disappointing fourth-quarter sales results included an explanation that "Beverages sales were lower due primarily to weak consumption in V8 Splash vs. record sales a year earlier."

Reversing the trend may be critical. "This was an area of great growth for Campbell in recent years, and I don't think there's an easy come, easy go attitude for the product," said Prudential Securities analyst John McMillin. "People still view this as a potential growth opportunity, certainly something easier to tackle than soup in a company that doesn't have many" growth opportunities.

To reignite the initial momentum, the first step is to "eliminate the barrier to trial, which is that a fairly substantial number of consumers actually think this product tastes like tomatoes and vegetables," said Maria Puoti, VP-global ad services at Campbell. In fact, V8 Splash is a blend of carrot and fruit juices.


To alleviate consumers' concerns, Campbell has developed a new 30-second TV spot that features a young man sidling up to an attactive older woman lying by the pool to offer her a V8 Splash. ("To cool her down," he explains as reasoning for his opening line, "You're hot!") As she wrinkles her nose, he hands it to her, pointing out that while she probably thinks it tastes "rich and tomatoey," in fact it's refreshing and fruity. The tagline further attests to that fact by touting V8 Splash as "A very different V8." Y&R Advertising, New York, handles the effort, which includes radio spots and extensive distribution of more than 10 million samples to back up the claim.

The decidedly adult target is a big switch for V8 Splash. "When we first launched the brand, we were very consciously talking to adults with children . . . but research has shown us that adults themselves account for an overwhelming majority of [V8 Splash] consumption, so to grow further we need to reach that broader segment and talk to them more overtly," Ms. Puoti said.

Since retention scores for people who try V8 Splash are "very high," she said, "we just need to get more consumers to try it."


The new spot, which Ms. Puoti calls "tactical advertising that will help us overcome a hurdle," precedes more large scale new campaign efforts that Campbell is developing for 2001. That effort will support the overall V8 portfolio, including the flagship V8, V8 Splash, new Diet V8 Splash (AA, March 27) and other expected new products. The push marks an increase in media spending for V8 Splash, which was supported with only $6 million in measured media during the first half of this year, compared to $24 million in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The initiative is part of a larger Campbell directive to "focus on fewer, bigger ideas across the company, those that have the most horsepower, and to spend against them at levels we feel will drive the business," Ms. Puoti said.

Campbell recently announced a significant increase in spending against its ailing soup business and plans to reincorporate its previously popular "M'm! M'm! Good!" theme.

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