Lipton stirs up 'family' effort

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Unilever Bestfoods hopes to make its dry dinner mix entry sizzle with the launch next week of a $25 million integrated marketing campaign built around recognizable celebrities cast as the families next door.

The effort for Lipton Sizzle & Stir includes initial TV and print executions featuring the Woolerys (game show host Chuck Woolery and talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael as parents, actor Pat Morita and singer Little Richard as their kids) and the Ts, (actor Mr. T and actress Lonnie Anderson as parents, actor George Hamilton and gymnast Mary Lou Retton as kids). The two celebrity-filled families and those expected to follow them are intended to help the brand, which was introduced last year, break through the clutter of weekday meal options and family-oriented food advertising.

"We wanted to show people that are very different from each other to dramatize the fact that Sizzle & Stir brings people together," said Bruce Winterton, group business director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, which developed the campaign.

Consumer research showed the launch effort for Sizzle & Stir, an oddly quiet TV campaign that depicted the brand as "Surprisingly real" (AA, April 24), did not tap into the brand's central points of differentiation: that it engages consumers in the cooking process and seems more like real food than its competitors, said Alicia Rockmore, director of marketing for Lipton Mealmakers.

The new campaign, "Real cooking," depicts the parents in each ad enjoying the process of preparing the meal while the kids interact in typical bickering fashion. In "The Woolerys," Little Richard balks at being asked to help his brother Pat set the table, while in "The Ts," Mary Lou makes fun of her brother George for getting a call from a girl.

Thomas Hayo, group creative director at Bartle Bogle, called the ads "traditional with a very untraditional cast" and said the aim is to entertain and get attention.

While Sizzle & Stir has grown to a sizable $28 million business since its launch early last year, it is dwarfed by its competition in the growing $500 million dry dinner mixes category, most notably by longtime leader General Mills and its Helper line, which dominates with a 75% share. Lipton also trails Kraft Foods' Stove Top Oven Creations, which grew 51% last year to $65 million in sales, according to Information Resources Inc. The reason, according to one Midwest retail executive, is that Sizzle & Stir is "not as quick and easy as they make it sound, and requires consumers to buy vegetables and meat," while other options provide an easier alternative.

Lipton hopes the extensive marketing effort, even bigger than the introductory year's $15 million outlay, will help Sizzle & Stir get attention not just to compete in its own narrow category but against the larger universe of weekday meals, including spaghetti, tacos or takeout.

The effort includes the $10 million-plus TV campaign, which breaks Feb. 19 on network and national cable programs including "Oprah" and "Dateline," print ads that break in April issues of women's magazines including MacDonald Communications' Working Mother and Hearst Magazines' O, The Oprah Magazine, and sampling and promotion.

The new campaign, like BBH's previous work for Lipton's Recipe Secrets (AA, Dec. 11), is an effort to make Lipton brands more contemporary and build their personality as "smart, friendly, energetic and a brand that doesn't take

itself too seriously," Ms. Rockmore said.

Although the new combined Unilever Bestfoods is reviewing creative shops in a global review, Ms. Rockmore said she foresees continuing to work with Bartle Bogle, which also handles several Unilever brands in London.

Contributing: Wendy Davis

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