Much-Maligned Meat Product Launches Over-the-Top Ad Campaign

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NEW YORK ( -- To today's younger generation, Spam is something that invades your computer. It's not something you make for dinner.

Hormel Foods, creator of the 65-year-old canned concoction

The new BBDO retro ads demand 'More Spam.'
of pork shoulder and ham, is out to prove otherwise. It's aiming to spiff up Spam's decidedly downscale image by removing the "gel" inside the familiar blue tin while launching an appropriately quirky ad campaign touting the cult classic as a recipe staple.

Joe Spam
"A wake up call to America" is what Spam Brand Manager Nick Meyer dubs the "Crazy tasty" campaign breaking Nov. 4 featuring mealtime savior "Joe Spam." While the average Spam consumer today is part of the over-45 set (many of whom first encountered it in wartime) the new effort tries to bring the age down a bit with a goal of enticing harried young moms.

In the TV and radio effort, developed by Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Minneapolis, as a kitschy guide for the can't-cook set, Joe Spam is the everyman that impresses crowds at barbecues, beach get-togethers and breakfasts by offering

Hormel's Spam promotions are also supported by an extensive and entertaining Web site at that maintains the same zany attitude.
basic-assembly Spam-centered recipes.

Young girl at a barbecue: "These burgers are great!"

Joe Spam: "That's because they're made with Spam."

Man: "How do you make those?"

Joe: "Well, I grilled up some Spam, sliced a tomato, grabbed some cheese and lettuce, then I put it all on a bun. I call it a Spamburger."

Monty Python attitude
Joe Spam appears in another spot cooking macaroni and cheese with Spam. Other executions are expected to follow. The pitch is that the spicy smoked taste of Spam makes eggs, pizza -- almost anything -- better. And it's done with all the over-the-top fervor of the famed Spam routine from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

In the spots, people literally eat up the stuff, and when there's none left, Joe Spam is able to clap his hands, yell out "More Spam!" and call up a

Spam, whose name was chosen during a 1936 promotional contest, also opened its own museum in Austin, Minn., last year. Visitors can don hard hats, rubber gloves and hairnets to participate in a simulated Spam production line. The Spam Museum also features marketing exhibits as far back as the product's first radio ads starring Gracie Allen and George Burns.
Spam-mobile that crashes the party to deliver more of the "Crazy tasty" stuff. The crowd, of course, barely notices the unusual delivery, as they only have eyes for the little blue tins.

The campaign tries to capture the Americana boldness of the brand itself; is "very noisy," to break through the clutter; and has, like the brand itself, a slightly retro feel, said Denny Haley, executive creative director at BBDO. "It's a contemporized, retro take on the brand, a first cousin to [the] Old Navy [campaign]," he said.

No more gel
Although the ads don't mention it, the effort coincides with a product improvement for Spam, a $138 million brand that had flat sales for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 8, according to Information Resources Inc. "Among lapsed users and those trying Spam for the first time, the biggest complaint has been the physical appearance of the product, the 'gel' inside the can," Mr. Meyer said. Now that the gel has been eliminated, Hormel hopes such news -- combined with the new creative -- might make the product more appealing to 25- to 44-year-old women.

Some food analysts are skeptical. "I think the challenge to renovate Spam is a big one," said Prudential Securities analyst John McMillin. Banc of America Securities analyst Bill Leach, noting that Spam's long-ago positioning as a convenience product predated modern refrigeration. He said he didn't think Spam "will be back in the forefront of food trends anytime soon."

The Spam Museum
But don't be too quick to slam Spam. BBDO's Mr. Haley argues that while it might be "easy to rip the brand, what's unimpeachable is the popularity of it." Sales of Spam-licensed apparel are brisk, and earlier this year the 16,500 square-foot Spam Museum opened in Hormel's hometown of Austin, Minn.

Among the museum's visitors is Robert Thompson, professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University. "Spam has its place in the pop-culture continuum," he said. "It's the product we like to joke about as a mystery meat ... but that may work to its advantage. We love it so much that we laugh harder at it than anything else."

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