Oscar Mayer hams it up for new lunch meat line

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Oscar Mayer Foods is launching a new and unexpected campaign for its reformulated sliced ham, in an effort to make consumers understand that the marketer's middle name isn't just bologna.

The tagline for the initially regional print, outdoor and in-store effort from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago is "Oscar like you've never seen before" -- a reference to two new oval-shaped ham varieties with browned edges in resealable bags. The first effort from the Kraft Foods unit for its ham products since the early '90s, the campaign will use everything from a 3-D billboard to heads of lettuce to reach consumers.


Bus shelters will be covered in the bold Oscar Mayer yellow used in all the communications, with only a tiny picture of the new package and copy in eight-point type that reads, "New Oscar Mayer ham. The closer you get, the better it looks." The tactic is intended to "draw people in and play off the fact that this new ham really looks delicious," said Jane Hilk, category business director for equity and growth at Oscar Mayer.

Similarly expected to get the products noticed are signs placed on store shelves not only in the refrigerated deli meats section but in other related areas. Sandwich bread shelves feature quips such as "I want to hold your ham," and signs in front of Kraft Singles cheese products read, "Save me from being single." Ten million heads of lettuce will carry stickers saying, "I want to be seen with the best looking ham."

Billboards will offer messages such as, "Caution: drooling. Next 20 miles" and "Stop staring or you'll miss your exit." Print ads in women's service magazines will also tease consumers about their fascination with the new ham.

"Our intention is to flood the markets we're in with a sea of yellow," Ms. Hilk said. "We want to recognize that people do more than watch TV, because these days we're fighting to get consumers' attention."

The campaign will roll out regionally and eventually go national.


The idea to move away from Oscar Mayer's traditional brand equities -- among them wienermobiles, jingles and cute kids -- as well as from more traditional media stemmed from the product itself, said Marcee Nelson, group creative director and senior partner at JWT. "When we looked at [the new ham] compared to other pre-packaged ham, we felt we had to get people to look at it and put it in new places where people would see it unexpectedly," she said.

In addition, while the brand's image has previously been associated with hot dogs and bologna, getting the news out about the new ham required an expansion of the brand -- "a whole new Oscar, yet the one people have known," Ms. Nelson said.

Oscar Mayer leads in the $2.7 billion refrigerated sliced lunch meat category, with sales up 0.9% to $706 million for the 52 weeks ended June 18, Information Resources Inc.figures show.

The new 10-ounce soft-zipper bags of ham in Honey and Smoked varieties, launched this past April, and are intended to allow Oscar Mayer to play in the faster-growth segment of the category that caters to more upscale consumers.

Of the $35 million Oscar Mayer spent on media in 1999, only $2.6 million was spent on lunch meats with the bulk put toward Lunchables and hot dogs, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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