Media Chefs
Allan Castro, Kim Vasey, Mira Desai Sr., Kjerstin Beatty and Lele Engler

How do you increase consumer appetite for an American icon, one so popular it was immortalized by Andy Warhol in 1962? That was the daunting challenge faced by Mediaedge:cia, this year’s Media Plan of the Year winner for Best Use of Radio, which took Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup, a brand everyone grew up with, and created new demand for the product.

Like other packaged-goods marketers, Campbell’s relies on print and TV advertising to position the brand and establish overall appeal. With radio, a medium Campbell’s has used since 1931 when it introduced the catchy “M’m M’m, good” jingle, Campbell’s sought to reach consumers at the precise moment when a nice, hot bowl of chicken noodle soup really hits home.

“The goal with any icon product is to maintain top-of-mind awareness and relevance,” says Len Herstein, senior marketing manager of Red & White icons for the Campbell Soup Co. “As lifestyles change, we want to make sure we’re talking to consumers with messages that not only drive purchases, but also drive consumption.”

And with more food marketers targeting consumers with fast, easy-meal solutions, competition for the 135-year-old soup company’s brands spreads beyond the soup category. “What you struggle with is how to use radio in a nonvisual way,” says Herstein. “But radio has qualities other media don’t: It’s timely, local and flexible. With radio, we can capitalize on how consumption relates to weather and the flu season. Both are hard to predict and vary market to market.”

To drive demand and consumption for what Campbell’s calls “America’s Favorite Food,” Mediaedge:cia developed a three-pronged campaign. The ads, developed by BBDO, targeted adult, female consumers on adult-leaning formats such as Country, Adult Contemporary, Urban Adult Contemporary, Jazz and Oldies during the high-soup- consumption months between October and January.

But instead of buying a set schedule of ads across a number of markets in advance, Mediaedge sought to make the advertising more relevant to consumers’ lives by placing the spots close to air date in markets when there was impending cold or inclement weather.

“This campaign drove home the point that radio can respond to changing events and produce results. That’s the beauty of radio: You can can get on the air quickly with a message that is relevant to the consumer today,” says Kim Vasey, senior partner and director of radio for Mediaedge: cia. Vasey, along with Kjerstin Beatty, communications manager, and Lele Engler, communications analyst, had to monitor individual markets and stations, not to mention Campbell’s budget, practically daily.

This wasn’t the first year Campbell’s used local-market weather conditions to trigger its advertising. But is was the first year it added two other indicators, hurricane radio and flu radio. The result: three different campaigns, all of which increased sales and consumption of Campbell’s Soup.

“We historically have gotten good return on our investment from weather-triggered campaigns. We feel we got the same, if not better, results as previous years,” says Allan Castro, associate marketing manager of chicken noodle for Campbell Soup Co. “That’s [saying] something for a brand that’s been around 100 years.”

“Campbell’s tracked results from the media campaign, and the return on their investment was huge,” Vasey adds, characterizing the sales increases as “significant.”

For the weather-triggered ads that ran between October and December 2003, Mediaedge worked with CRN International, which monitored storm predictions and below-average temperature readings in 24 markets, including Albany, N.Y.; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; and Philadelphia. When conditions were right, ads ran within 24 to 48 hours of each weather event. “That’s how agile radio is: We went from no plans and no spot to a spot and active in markets within a day,” says Herstein.

The idea to run ads in a dozen markets where there was an approaching hurricane was a little tougher to execute. In September, a heavy hurricane month, Beatty found herself trying to predict the course of Hurricane Isabel, which assaulted markets such as Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va., and the surrounding area. “We were monitoring on an hourly basis, so we could turn it around with lightning speed,” says Beatty. With such a fast turnaround, there was no creative, so Mediaedge used radio station announcers, who delivered the Campbell’s message over a three-day flight. “In this case, the strategy was driving the creative,” Vasey notes.

Mediaedge also kept a close eye on flu indexes in 17 markets, including Atlanta, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Seattle, St. Louis and Sacramento, Calif., for the months of December and January in order to determine when to run a three-week flight of Campbell’s ads.

Even though commercial time was being purchased close to air date, rates were not an issue because demand for radio is generally slower at the end of December and in the early part of first quarter. “Maybe in late November we might have to pay a premium, but we can make it up on the back end,” Vasey says.

Radio allowed Campbell’s to deliver messages it couldn’t deliver in print or on TV. “Campbell’s Soup, because of its hydrating properties, is recommended by two out of three doctors for colds,” says Herstein. “Because of the soup’s association with the cold season, this was a unique way to deliver our message.”

Although more intricate to execute than a lot of radio campaigns, the results were worth it, securing the medium’s place in the advertising mix for future marketing. “It was a great model for us. We’re very satisfied and we’ll use it as a base for our plans going forward,” says Herstein.

The Campbell’s example also serves as a lesson for other packaged-goods marketers, which may be avoiding radio because it doesn’t have pictures. “Many clients feel that the consumer needs to see the product, but what you really need to do is get the consumer to see themselves taking action in their own mind and that’s what drives consumer purchase,” says Vasey.

“The way to get the value of radio is to understand where its strengths are, then be dedicated to them,” says Herstein. “If you understand how the strengths can fit with what you’re trying to accomplish with your brand, radio can be a real powerful medium.”Katy Bachman is a senior editor covering radio for Mediaweek.

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