McCormick ads to pepper airwaves

January 25, 1995|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Sun Staff Writer

Confronted with a rich and vigorous opponent in the U.S. spice market, McCormick & Co. Inc. is launching a nationwide radio campaign asking Americans to "Flavor up with McCormick."

The Sparks-based company, which makes about 40 percent of all the spices sold in the United States, has hired the Atlanta office of Ogilvy & Mather to run a one-year advertising campaign, slated to cost between $7 million and $10 million.

The move was a dramatic one for McCormick, which has spent little on advertising in recent years, relying instead on the power of its dominant brand name and comprehensive line of spices and flavorings.

Company spokesman Allen "Mac" Barrett said yesterday that the advertisements would be aired nationwide starting early this year, and would be paired with promotions from local grocers.

He said McCormick chose radio over other media because "it enables us to reach our target audience to and from work and to and from grocery stores economically."

Neill Cameron, president of Ogilvy & Mather-South, which will manage the new radio campaign, said McCormick's board had decided to step up the company's advertising because of competition.

"McCormick is far and away the market leader, but the board . . . does not want to give up anything," he said.

Mr. Cameron said New York-based Ogilvy and several other national advertising companies were invited to compete for the business late last year. McCormick chose Ogilvy because of the "country-rock" jingle the agency suggested, he said.

"It is very upbeat. . . . They told us once you hear it, you can't get it out of your head," Mr. Cameron said.

The jingle will be heard in every U.S. city several times a day for most of the year, he said.

Roy Furchgott, the Baltimore-Washington bureau chief for Ad Week, an advertising trade publication, said the increase in advertising comes as spice sales competition has heated up for the first time in years.

McCormick spent only about $1 million on advertising last year, and about half that amount in 1993, he said.

The company, with about 1,900 employees in Maryland, earned $61.2 million on sales of $1.7 billion for its fiscal year that ended Nov. 30.

McCormick said in October that it would attempt to increase profit margins by closing two plants and laying off about 600 workers from its work force of 8,600 worldwide.

Industry analysts praised the move yesterday, saying McCormick must enhance its position because its biggest competitor, Durkee French, has been strengthened by its new Australian owner, Sydney-based Burns, Philp & Co.

Durkee French has about 20 percent of the U.S. market.

"This is an excellent idea. This is something I and the other analysts have been telling them for a couple years," said Kurt Funderburg, who follows McCormick for Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. in Baltimore.

"They have a very strong brand name, but they don't utilize it that much."

McCormick stock closed up $1 yesterday, finishing the day at $21 a share.

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