Peltz Re-engages As Kraft Heats Up Social Engagement

All the recent activity at Kraft Foods finally caught my fancy this morning, quite a few days later and many dollars shorter than it evidently has reengaged Nelson Peltz' affections. The activist investor, who once had a 2.4% stake in the company, agreed not to take a controlling interest after it added two new board members that he supported, as Financial Times reports. He "began shaving away his Kraft stake" after the company started pursuing Cadbury, which it eventually bought, last year.

Peltz has re-accumulated, as StreetInsider.com puts it, a stake in Kraft Foods through his Trian hedge fund "and he didn't want the world to know about it." Could be that he saw some of what Julie Jargon sees in the Wall Street Journal this morning: A resolve "to shuck its stodgy image and adapt decades-old brands like Miracle Whip and Macaroni & Cheese to the denizens of Facebook and Twitter."

Presumably, that's how you reach the young 'uns nowadays. At least Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld thinks so. "Schmoozing with customers online and reaching out to younger ones are key" to her efforts to get the company's legacy brands off the schneid, Jargon reports.

But it's also changing its spots, so to speak, in television ads that shuck old-time wholesomeness for a little racy banter. A spot for Athenos hummus has a "YiaYia" (Greek grandmother type) telling a young hostess that she "dresses like a prostitute," for example. Popular Facebook and YouTube presences followed. (Don't bother filing a complaint; Greek cultural groups have you covered.)

And, Jargon reports, Miracle Whip -- no, it doesn't go that far -- has been defying conventional wisdom by airing spots that feature people who don't like it

Adweek's Tim Nudd seems absolutely fixated on work for good ol' Mac & Cheese lately in "Ad of the Day"/"Adfreak" columns. Perhaps that has something to do with Crispin Porter + Bogusky being its agency. Last month, Nudd lauded two new TV spots that built on the theme that parents can't help stealing their kids' Mac & Cheese. (But really! A kid calling the cops on his dad?) Then there was the Twitter game called "Mac & Jinx" that's based on the game where two people say the same thing, or make a similar sound, at the same time. Let's not overlook the billboard for the pasta that claims: "The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Stove On." Ooh là là!

Over at Age, we've seen a flurry of reports about accounts in review and rebooted campaigns lately. Stride Gum launched a new campaign this month starring extreme sports star Shaun White. The brand, which it acquired with Cadbury, has been getting chewed up by the competition, EJ Schultz reports, with sales down 17% for the year.

"Gum is social currency, it just is," Kraft Foods senior director for U.S. gum marketing Maurice Herrera tells Schultz. And so it needs to constantly "entertain and even look to ways of reinventing ourselves so we maintain [consumers'] loyalty and interest level."

Maureen Morrison, meanwhile, reported on June 9 that "in yet another agency shakeup," Triscuit creative has gone into review. Euro RSCG continues as the digital and social media agency of record for the brand, however.

A few days earlier, Morrison and Schultz combined on a piece reporting that WPP's Taxi had won the account for Mio, "a first-of-a-kind liquid-water enhancer that the company has said represents its 'biggest investment in a new business in the last decade." Mio "Liquid" is reportedly Kraft's first new brand in 15 years. Tony Vernon, evp-Kraft Foods North America, told analysts in February that "we believe Mio represents the future of how people will drink ...." You can meet it on Facebook to learn how "it allows you to create up to 24 eight-ounce drinks from the palm of your hand."

Some bottom-line figures, courtesy of Jargon: Mac & Cheese sales were up 10% in the first quarter, Athenos hummus rose 11% between March and May. As far as Peltz is concerned, he ain't saying nuttin' about his renewed interest in the company. For now.

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