TCBY Takes Fat-Free Route in Return to TV

In its first TV campaign in nearly seven years, TCBY takes on the issue of obesity in America by advising people to “Eat more dessert.”

Two 30-second spots from LevyTenny here break May 8. In one, a svelte, bikini-clad woman emerges from a pool as text over her flat abdominal region reads, “51 percent of Americans are overweight.” The copy then offers, “We have a solution. Eat more dessert.” The second commercial features a lean woman putting on a shirt and asserts, “62 percent of women are overweight.”

Both spots then show a family enjoying the frozen yogurt as a voiceover extols the virtues of TCBY’s 96 percent fat-free products and concludes, “Your stomach will thank you.”

“We are taking a counterintuitive approach,” said TCBY marketing director Paul Kershisnik.

LevyTenny, a three-month-old startup, landed the account in March after the Salt Lake City-based marketer dismissed 12-year incumbent Stone Ward of Little Rock, Ark.

Sources estimated TCBY’s spending on the campaign, which includes public relations, promotions and point-of-purchase, at $10 million, a significant jump from previous years. The last spending recorded by CMR was $2 million in 1999.

Marketing efforts, which have primarily consisted of in-store material and freestanding inserts, fell off after TCBY’s June 2000 sale to Capricorn Investors LP as the new owners worked to find their footing, Kershisnik said.

The campaign aims to reintroduce the 22-year-old brand to 18- to 44-year-old mothers. Research indicated that many do not know what the acronym TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) stood for, agency president Jim Tenny said.

A healthy-eating strategy is logical for the largely fat- and sugar-free yogurt as awareness about obesity in the U.S. grows and fast-food marketers are blamed, said Kershisnik.

“It sounds like an interesting attack on obesity,” said Ron Paul, president of Chicago restaurant consultancy Technomic, citing Subway’s success with its healthy-eating message.

TCBY’s competitors include Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s, but Kershisnik sees the chain participating in a broader field that includes anywhere consumers go for a treat, such as Starbucks.

LevyTenny asked Viacom and Disney to pitch media packages that would stretch TCBY’s buy. Viacom won with an offer that includes placement on CBS daytime TV, Nick Jr. properties and other cable programs. It also offered a deal with Blockbuster, which will run three TCBY spots each hour in its stores for 14 weeks and give space to TCBY in its direct mail. TCBY will pass out Blockbuster coupons.

“[The agency’s] approach was, ‘Here’s the budget we have; take your best shot. We will commit our dollars to your properties,’ ” said Kershisnik.

The campaign’s goal is to reverse sales declines and prompt an increase in TCBY franchises, said Kershisnik. Technomic estimates the client’s 2002 U.S. sales at about $190 million, down from about $280 million in 1999. TCBY has about 1,570 units nationwide, a 43 percent decrease from 2,751 in 1999.