Rebel with a beak: Nabisco lures teens with nonconformist pitch

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After a couple years of TV fame, Bubble Yum's punk spokesduck is making his way onto print ads, packaging and even the Internet to attract maverick teens to the gum brand.

This May, Nabisco's LifeSavers Co. plans to launch the high-personality pink-mohawked duck -- introduced on TV two years ago -- full force into all elements of its marketing mix as part of a renewed focus on the Bubble Yum brand.

"The duck taps into a basic instinct of individuality that teens really connect with, and helps give Bubble Yum a unique positioning," said Susan Chaggaris, account exec and teen panel director at North Castle Partners, Stamford, Conn., the agency that handles Bubble Yum.

A print ad scheduled to run May through September in teen magazines such as Time Inc.'s The Source, Teen People and WWF Magazine extends the nonconformist personality. The duck, who dons a nose ring, spiked collar and anklet, is depicted in ads blowing a bubble so big it blasts the feathers off the other ducks when it pops. The tagline -- also used in the TV spot that features the duck dancing solo to "I've Got the Funk" -- continues the individuality theme by commanding teens to "Blow your own bubble."

In addition to appearing in the ongoing TV spot as well as new print, the punk duck will also be placed on packaging for Bubble Yum, point-of-purchase materials and on LifeSavers' Internet site (, where teens can download a screensaver that links to the print ads and allows them to "watch me blow 'em away."

North Castle's research showed that Bubble Yum's 12-to-17-year-old target has identified with the character from TV, prompting the duck's infiltration into all aspects of Bubble Yum marketing. "We wanted to develop an icon that teens will see no matter where they go and that will help them equate Bubble Yum with individuality," Ms. Chaggaris said.


Gum sales overall have been slipping -- down 5.1% to $512.6 million for the year ended Jan. 30 -- and Bubble Yum is down 7% to $22.3 million. Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.'s Winterfresh brand, which leads the category with $67.3 million in sales, is up 2.9%, likely due in part to an influx of advertising support for the brand. Nabisco spent less than $1 million on media for Bubble Yum in the first 11 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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