Make your meals `sing' with cheese, beef and -- Mr. Potatohead?
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With an advertising budget of some $65 million, the dairy campaign dwarfs other generic advertising. In its first year of operation, the board became the nation's 33rd-largest TV network advertiser.Skip to next paragraph
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But compared to the mammoth advertising campaigns for brand-name food and beverages, generic advertising is a drop in the bucket. In 1982, for example, generic advertising made up only 2.1 percent of the $3.6 billion spent on all food and beverage advertising, according to an agriculture department report.
Given such small resources, can generic advertising work?
``Yeah, we'd have to say it's very successful,'' says William Gordon, marketing director for the Florida Department of Citrus. ``We've had 50 years of unbroken advertising support and straight-line increases year by year.''
In the 1950s, the Florida growers began promoting a new product -- frozen orange concentrate. First, Mr. Gordon says, the ads aimed at moving the juice from an occasional to an everyday breakfast drink. (Remember Anita Bryant and ``A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine?'') The next target was to broaden its appeal: ``It isn't just for breakfast anymore.'' And the current ads -- ``Orange you smart'' -- target the juice's nutrition. Throughout, Gordon says, the ads have stressed big se rvings by showing orange juice in large glasses.
Now, however, the growers have another problem. A series of devastating freezes in Florida have severely reduced the crop, meaning that nearly half of US demand now has to be met with imported oranges, particularly from Brazil. So, beginning this week, the growers are kicking off another nationwide campaign, giving juice packers a Florida seal of approval when they agree to pack to that state's standards.
``The long-term goal is to assure the consumer of constant quality and to retain a strong Florida presence until we are strong again,'' Gordon says.
Until this year, there was no solid evidence that generic advertising affected sales. But according to preliminary figures from a study of the National Dairy Board's campaign, a 0.3 percent uptick in milk consumption was directly due to milk advertising in market sample studies.
Traditionally, generic campaigns have measured success by how much they've changed consumer attitudes.
When officials at the Denver-based Potato Board realized that consumers had an unwarranted negative opinion about the potato, they got to work. In a recent magazine ad, for example, they disguised a potato with nose and glasses `a la Groucho Marx. Above the full-color ad ran the caption: ``Can you recognize America's favorite diet food?''
Now, the board is feeling confident enough to move into other areas, says A. J. Otjen, consumer relations director for the board. It's looking into campaigns for potato chips and French fries. The message: ``It's just another slice of potato.''
That message seems a lot less controversial than the recent ``Beef gives strength'' campaign by the Beef Industry Council. A nonprofit consumer-health group in Washington labeled the beef ads the most misleading of the year.
Overall, generic advertising seems to be gradually increasing.
``I think it's the continuation of a trend,'' says Dr. William Manley, an agriculture department official responsible for overseeing the promotion programs. From 1972 to 1982, spending by farm commodity associations tripled, according to Leading National Advertisers, an advertising research firm.
Advertising alone isn't going to solve agriculture's long-term problems, says Clifford Carman, an Agriculture Department dairy analyst.
Just ask producers of wool. Theirs is the oldest promotion program specifically authorized by Congress, but they have seen the product lose out to man-made fibers. In 1950, four years before the promotion program was enacted, wool claimed 10 percent of US fiber use; by 1983, it was down to 2 percent.