Natural Foods Merchandiser

Silk Ad Push Is Industry’s Biggest Ever

Silk soymilk has gone primetime, launching a $22.3 million television advertising campaign that is the most expensive in the history of natural foods.

The advertising push is part of a marketing effort to move Silk into the mainstream. The TV ads, which debuted April 12 and will run through September, included a spot on The Tonight Show after the May 6 Friends finale. Silk ads are also appearing during TV shows that appeal to women, including ER, Scrubs, Reba, Gilmore Girls, Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Early Show. In addition, Silk is advertising extensively on cable networks such as HGTV, the Food Channel, Lifetime and USA.

?By bringing soymilk ads to television, we are making a clear statement that there is no single niche big enough to contain Silk. Like Coca-Cola, Minute Maid or Starbucks coffee, Silk is a beverage that appeals to everyone,? said Steve Demos, president of Boulder, Colo.-based White Wave, maker of Silk soymilk.

According to ACNielsen surveys, 11 percent of American households currently purchase Silk. White Wave Marketing Director Mary Adams would not reveal how much the company expects Silk sales to increase as a result of the ads, but did say White Wave has hired ACNielsen, Information Resources Inc. and Millward Brown to track sales and conduct a survey on consumer attitudes toward Silk during the ad campaign.

Silk is the only soymilk ever advertised on television. The four ads feature female actors of various ages and are designed to appeal to empowered women, Adams said. They focus on Silk as part of a healthy breakfast. ?We felt breakfast was the best way to introduce people to soymilk,? Adams said.

Jeff Hilton, president of Integrated Marketing Group in Salt Lake City, said Silk?s mainstream advertising strategy could work because ?there?s been enough press on the advantages of soy that any consumers who are at all health-conscious know soy is a good thing. People buy milk anyway, so they may be willing to take a $3 risk on Silk.?

Silk?s $35 million marketing campaign eats up a little less than 10 percent of White Wave?s forecasted $370 million in sales this year. In addition, White Wave can rely on the deep pockets of its parent company, Dallas-based Dean Foods, which posted $9.2 billion in 2003 revenue.

Other elements of the marketing campaign include underwriting National Public Radio programming, product sampling, shelf talkers, floor graphics, coupons and event sponsorships.

Vicky Uhland is a Denver-based free-lance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 6/p. 20

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