10 problem products from 2003

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1 Ziploc Tabletops

Born in 2002, these "semi-disposable" plates officially died in 2003. They were built to last forever and cost as much as cheap permanent tableware. And therein lay the problem. "There are no repeat purchases," grumbled one grocery buyer. "The things last forever." Pricing didn't help either, with a four-place setting fetching $22.99. S.C. Johnson spent $65 million on the initial marketing budget; seven months later it had only $23 million in sales in outlets excluding Wal-Mart.

2 "From Justin to Kelly"

It should've been called "From Riches to Rags." These two "American Idol"songsters brought in stellar ratings for the Fox network, but couldn't convert their TV success to draw young fans to the movie theater. The 20th Century Fox lightweight song-and-dance release pulled a measly $3.9 million in its summer opening weekend, and then plunged 95% by the third week. When it was all over, the much-hyped movie had made less than $5 million. That's show biz.

3 Pepsi Blue

As hot as sales were for Pepsi-Cola's Code Red in 2001, it's azure-hued, berry-flavored cola extension had the opposite effect. PepsiCo had high hopes; Dave Berwick, senior VP-marketing of carbonated soft drinks, said product would "stand the cola category on its head." But even with $22 million in ad spending, which included an aggressive MTV-driven campaign, the brand sold just 17 million cases in 2002 and officially fizzled in 2003 as PepsiCo's soft drink unit learned that adults wouldn't go for the Kool-Aid cola, even if their kids liked it. Big blue ended up red-faced.

4 Slim-Fast

Being the No. 1 diet brand in supermarkets at a time when obesity is a national obsession should be a no-brainer. But when you're high-carb and low-fat in an Atkins Diet world, you can still drop 30% of your sales and pull a company the size of Unilever down with you. Third-quarter sales of Slim-Fast were blamed for company losses. And to think, as recently as June, the company was gearing up to make Slim-Fast a mega-brand, with a planned launch of 15 products, from sippable soup cups to boxed pasta meals.

5 FluMist

FluMist flunked. That is, until a severe outbreak of the flu and a subsequent shortage of flu shots made the first nasally-administered flu product a must-have in December. Until then, however, a $50 million ad campaign for FluMist, marketed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and MedImmune, couldn't hide the fact that it was expensive (almost three times more than a shot) and didn't cater to the two groups most at risk for the flu (children under 5 and adults over 50). Prior to the demand created by the shortfall of flu shots, only 10% of the 4 million doses created were sold.

6 ESPN's "Playmakers"

Scared off by storylines that included drug use by a player just hours before games, abuse of women and a gay player, among other things, conservative advertisers such as Gatorade sidelined this ESPN weekly series based on the National Football League by the end of its debut season. ESPN has yet to say whether "Playmakers" will make the draft for another season, but remember that the Walt Disney Co.-owned network does have a broadcast rights agreement in place with the NFL. The real NFL, that is.

7 Kraft Foods' FreshPrep kits

One might think six easy-to-prepare meals would have appealed to the growing number of time-starved and nutrition-minded families. But Kraft couldn't decide where to put the product in stores and this good idea went bad. The company also stumbled in its advertising and use of cheaper generic ingredients to drive down costs. Kraft went through a series of agencies and ad strategies for the dinner kits-intended to be sold in grocers' meat cases -but nothing helped build the brand's sales to the heights expected.

8 Mitsubishi Endeavor

Positioned as hip family wheels and launched with the cool music agency Deutsch made standard for the brand, Mitsubishi forgot to tell consumers its SUV was an all-new model and why its $30,000 pricetag was worth it. Despite reworking the original spot by adding scenes inside with a family and kids in back watching Sponge Bob Square Pants on the backseat DVD, through November, Mitsubishi said it sold 27,240 Endeavors, about half its expected draw.

9 Chips Ahoy Ooey Gooey Nice & Chewy

It should have been an easy sell to stressed-out consumers in search of an easy-to-heat comfort food. But when Kraft Foods' Nabisco had to change the microwave cooking time, the end result better resembled something you scrape off your shoe. The company pulled it supermarket shelves at an estimated cost of $17 million.

10 Lays Stax

Granted, this one might be too early to call, but PepsiCo's Frito-Lay was six months late on the launch and critics say the product tastes worse than the product they're knocking off. Just don't look for Frito-Lay to give up in their death match. In fact, as an indication of its seriousness, the marketer broke its campaign featuring Dana Carvey dealing a "deck" of Snax, from BBDO, New York, on Fox TV's Emmy Awards telecast.

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