Hormel boosts Spam budget to $10 mil, adds network TV

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Hormel Foods Corp. will sharply increase its advertising budget for Spam to $10 million as it returns the brand to network TV with a campaign breaking Jan. 26.

"What we're trying to do is broaden our base," said Peter Murphy, VP-account supervisor on the Hormel business at BBDO Worldwide, Minneapolis. Not only can Hormel reach Spam users through TV, it can also "expand the target audience" for the brand with a more generalized media buy, he said.

Mr. Murphy estimates last year Spam received only $1.5 million in ad support, nearly all in magazines. The '98 effort will include February issues of magazines as well as network, spot and syndicated TV.


While the media may be different, Spam's strategy will be similar to last year--to promote the taste of the product, particularly when used to make Spamburgers.

In the TV effort, a baby "lusts after her dad's Spamburger to the point of deceit," said Mr. Murphy, distracting dad and stealing his burger.

Although he admits Spam has taken a hit over the years for its sodium and fat content, Mr. Murphy said that's not justified.

"It's no worse than hot dogs. In fact, [Spam's] better for you than hot dogs," he said, noting the product is made primarily with pork shoulder, while hot dogs often contain byproducts.

Still, Hormel has tried to give Spam a healthier halo over the last several years. A low-sodium variety was introduced in 1986, and a light version rolled out in 1992.


The increased ad spending is clearly aimed at raising the brand's share. According to Information Resources Inc., Spam and Spam Lite together held a 62.2% share of the $148 million canned lunch meat category for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 7. But Spam's sales of $72.6 million were down 6.6% over the previous period, while Spam Lite's sales of $19.4 million dropped 13.1%.

Hormel appears to have become more active on the ad front in general. In November, the company broke a campaign for its reformulated, lower-sodium canned chili that has been running at heavy spending levels.

A TV spot, styled to look and sound like a car ad, opens with a shot of a sleek-looking auto in the desert under wraps. When the wrap is lifted, a model sits in the front seat "test driving" a bowl of chili.

The commercial, also from BBDO, will run on the Super Bowl, an unusually expensive and high-profile media buy for Hormel.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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