Lightning strikes for Toasted Oatmeal

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Quaker Oats Co. is cooking up an unorthodox ad approach for its Toasted Oatmeal cereal in an appeal to traditional consumers.

The four spots, breaking today on network and cable TV, show an animated version of the familiar oatmeal cylinder being struck by lightning or exploding while walking on hot coals, then transforming into the box containing the ready-to-eat cereal. They carry the new tag: "Same Quaker oatmeal. Only toasted."

The ads may appear more suited to teens than their parents. But the commercials target traditional cereal eaters -- the 40-plus set, said Kurt Fries, creative director at FCB Worldwide, Chicago, which created the effort. He said ads for Toasted Oatmeal are more contemporary, just like their target.

"It's not like 60-year-olds are drooling," he said. "The whole idea is to bring a little bit of entertainment value, fun and humor."


Mr. Fries said the cereal is returning to the brand's heritage, rather than the previous taste-focused, "You haven't loved a cereal this much since you were a kid" campaign that stopped airing in the first quarter of this year. This effort "gets back to the heart and soul of what oatmeal is all about," he said.

The two :30s and two :15s in the TV-only campaign will run primarily during early evening programming.

"It's an adult product with an adult message. It stands out from all other cereal in the category [because of the animation]," FCB Account Director Joe Reinstein said.

Quaker Toasted Oatmeal sales slid 5% to $54.1 million for the 52 weeks ended March 28, according to Information Resources Inc. Unit and volume sales fell almost 9%. In the same period, ready-eat-cereals experienced a 2% sales increase and a 0.6% bump in unit and volume sales, according to IRI.

Mr. Reinstein and Quaker officials would not comment on campaign spending. Last year, Quaker spent $7.3 million advertising the brand, off 11% from 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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