Hormel’s Spam as a Cure for the Blahs

Expect to see more spam on your TV soon.

A push for Hormel’s iconic canned-meat product — not the unwanted e-mail of the same name — by BBDO, Minneapolis, comes at a time when sales of the item have soared by double digits, per market research firm IRI. Plus, budget-minded consumers are increasingly browsing the center aisles of stores, which house many canned goods, including Spam.

Hormel, which spent $13 million advertising Spam last year, originally introduced the product as a wartime staple in 1937. It has since become the subject of many jokes and urban legends for its “mystery” combination of chopped pork shoulder, ham, salt and flavorings, in addition to being a synonym for junk e-mail.

Taking those connotations into account, the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously in new animated spots breaking this week. One shows a Spam can coming to the rescue while a professor, in a wearisome voice, briefs his “students” on the dangers of bread “crust removal.” (Hint: Pairing Spam with bread makes for a better sandwich.)

In a similar vein, another spot shows a bunch of eggs responding to the teacher’s roll call (they’re all called “egg,” apparently). Without warning, a can of Spam, dancing to disco music, bursts into the room, and two eggs are so happy they come together and crack.

Laika, an animation studio based in Oregon, integrated stop-motion technology into the spots. (The agency also worked on the 3-D, stop-motion February motion picture hit, Coraline.)

Swen Neufeldt, group product manager for grocery products at Hormel, said the brand wanted to stand out. Ads for food products usually show a family gathered around a plate of food smiling, but Spam wanted more than that, he said.


“Break the monotony,” as the ad campaign is called, “is really about making ordinary meals extraordinary,” Neufeldt said. “It’s taking those things we eat week in and week out — scrambled eggs on a Saturday, macaroni and cheese on a Tuesday night — and making them better.”

Spam is spending significantly more on the campaign this year, compared to last year’s “Cravability” effort, which focused more on the brand’s taste. Hormel spent $1 million advertising Spam through March, per Nielsen (not including online ads), but it’s adding 50 percent more TV, along with national radio and online, Neufeldt said.

In March, the brand also refreshed its Web site, adding a game where consumers can “wake up [their] meals by playing and training with Spam.” Players get scored for how fast and accurate they can prepare recipes like “Hearty Spam Breakfast Skillet.”

Print ads running in women’s service books teach consumers how to jazz up everyday, affordable meals such as mac ’n cheese, a lettuce and tomato sandwich, eggs and scalloped potatoes.

Mintel analyst Marcia Mogelonsky said the ads address the stigma consumers have of eating Spam, but in a funny, lighthearted way. “It’s an iconic brand that was always put down,” she said. “Everyone’s always making fun of it…but itis tin lunch meat, and there is nothing wrong with that,” she said.