Hormel’s Spam in Ad Return

NEW YORK Whether you use Spam a little or, as they do on Broadway, Spamalot, it’s good to know that the quirky food product with the storied past has a sense of humor.

The luncheon meat was a staple among U.S. soldiers during World War II (which gave rise to the acronym “Special Purpose Army Meat”), and more recently it has become a prop for Monty Python and a term for unsolicited e-mail.

But Hormel Foods knows a good thing when it sees it and this month will launch a campaign that embraces both the fun aspect of Spam as well as its popularity. Three 30-second animated TV spots, Spam’s first print ads in five years and a redesigned Web site, all via BBDO, Minneapolis, illustrate Spam’s “cravability,” especially when it comes to Spamburgers, Spam singles and Spam Lite. TV will break Jan. 14 in 31 markets; print will launch Jan. 21 in national consumer magazines, as well as publications that cover hunting, Nascar and other target groups.

Hormel wants the campaign to reenergize consumer interest in the line. The company said it sells 90 million cans of Spam in the U.S. per year (the leading state on a per capita basis is Hawaii). But according to Hormel’s 2007 fiscal statement (ending Oct. 28), results from the grocery products division “were disappointing, primarily caused by a soft quarter from the Spam family of products . . . We expect the grocery products segment will have a slow start in fiscal 2008 [but that] the results will improve as the year progresses.”

In the TV spots, animated figures from public works signs such as walk/don’t walk, roadwork ahead and school crossing come alive at the sight of Spam. In one, “construction workers” chase down a guy carrying Spam in his grocery bag. In another, a man grilling Spam in his backyard is hounded by street safety figures, including a “buckle up when driving” guy who can’t unbuckle himself from his sign. In the third, a Spam truck is pursued by a figure riding a deer that has jumped off a “deer crossing” sign.

Print mirrors a game of Scrabble, with the letters on Spam cans missing to spell “_ _ AM” or “_ P _M” to indicate that the product can be used any time of the day. Spam.com has been rebooted to provide quicker and better access to such interactive features as exploration of the two Spammobiles and their tour dates, the Spam fan club and retail store, recipes and answers to frequently asked questions, such as “What does Spam stand for?” (According to Hormel, “The truth is, ‘Spam’ doesn’t really stand for anything.”)

“We’ve been pretty consistent focusing on the fun and healthy aspects of Spam,” said Swen Neufeldt, group product manager, associated brands at Hormel, Austin, Minn. “It’s an iconic brand. But with this campaign, we want people to see Spam and then put it on their shopping lists.”

Spend was not disclosed. Hormel spent $2 million on media on Spam in 2006 and $1.1 million January-October 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.