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CHICAGO-Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is taking bold steps to refresh its traditionally staid advertising.

The world's leading chewing gum marketer has changed very little in its 101-year history: not its headquarters, its packaging and barely its pricing. The resurrected 25 cent five-stick pack is a corporate symbol of reliable, consistent marketing.

But the 3%-5% annual sales growth Wrigley provided its Spearmint brand, courtesy of 1990's abruptly different "When you can't smoke" campaign, has inspired the marketer to alter domestic advertising for almost all of its brands. Wrigley this fall has new commercials for its Doublemint, Juicy Fruit and new Winterfresh gums that play up specific product benefits in more contemporary ways.

"We're sort of trying to give everything a visual breath of fresh air," said Phillip Gant, exec VP-chief creative officer, BBDO Worldwide, Chicago.

Because Wrigley spends more than 90% of its marketing budget on TV, the company is "always seeking ways to sharpen the TV advertising-we depend very little on promotion," said group VP-Marketing Ron Cox. But in the past Wrigley hewed to a very conservative-critics would say corny-creative approach in advertising.

Declining to give specific figures, Mr. Cox said Wrigley is spending "$1 gazillion dollars" behind the rollout of Winterfresh, the company's first new brand since NutraSweet-ened Extra's bow a decade ago, and its first new sugared flavor since Big Red rolled out in 1976.

The 30-second Winterfresh spot that broke earlier this month features more contemporary music and characters under the tagline, "Icy cool flavor. Icy fresh breath." Radio spots joke about the kind of bad breath generated by the human mouth, where it is "98.6 degrees and 100% humidity."

Creatively, "Winterfresh has been an opportunity to do something that has an exciting look and feel," Mr. Gant said. Because the brand addresses breath-freshening, ads are geared toward a more youthful audience.

Other attempts to focus on the teen market have included a humorous Big Red spot on K-III Communications' Channel One service, as well as a Doublemint rap song played on black and rap radio stations.

But Mr. Cox asserts that while teens represent a disproportionate amount of business for Extra, Juicy Fruit and Big Red, Wrigley doesn't live and die by young customers. "Even if we had 100% of the teen business, we'd still have only 17%-20% of the market."

For the 52 weeks ended Sept. 11, Wrigley held 44% of the $1.1 billion gum sales in food, drug and mass merchandise stores, reported Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Competitors Warner-Lambert Co. and Planters LifeSavers Co. held 26.2% and 17.6%, respectively.

New product introductions from competitors have cut into the leader of the pack's business; launched early this year, CareFree's Stick Free, the first brand positioned against Wrigley's non-stick Freedent, has taken a chunk of sales, Wrigley admits. And both CareFree and Warner-Lambert's Trident have comparable versions of Winterfresh.

Wrigley's mission, therefore, is to update its look without alienating any part of its diverse audience. New executions document Wrigley's growing verve.

Three Juicy Fruit spots, now running nationally, introduce animation to Wrigley's stable. Under the tagline "Ten sweet calories. One sweet juicy choice," Wrigley uses cartoon sketches to position the gum as an alternative to more decadent desserts.

And a new spot for Doublemint moves away from the brand's signature Doublemint twins, instead focusing on the duality of "Fresh Taste. Fresh Breath."

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