Nestle takes aim at Hershey, Mars

Nestle takes aim at Hershey, Mars

The news Nestle will - for the first time - be buying airtime during the Super Bowl is much more significant that the usual "advertising investment" stories that cross our news desk. It suggests the company has re-focused its attention on the US market and intends to pit its confectionery brands against the likes of Hershey and Mars Inc, writes Katy Askew.

The Super Bowl is the biggest mass-market advertising event in the US and routinely ranks as one of the most-watched events in the country of the year. Many consumers tune in as much for the new crop of commercials as for the game itself. Advertising during the Super Bowl aims to be flashy, funny and unforgettable. And marketers spend big bucks ensuring their brands get their spot.

Nestle's move to buy one thirty-second spot in the fourth quarter of the game to promote its new Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups will have cost the group a pretty penny and could signal it plans to step up its investment behind its brands in the US - the Swiss company's largest market but one where it is struggling to deliver top-line growth.

The launch of Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups is significant in itself: the line extension clearly has Hershey's Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in its sights. According to Euromonitor, Reese's are the top-selling chocolate confectionery brand in the US, with a market share of around 11.5% and more than US$2bn in sales for 2013.

Investing in a Super Bowl ad also pits Nestle against Mars - the only confectioner that typically advertises during the Super Bowl. Mars has one 45-second spot lined up for its M&Ms brand and will this year be putting the spotlight on the peanut variety as part of its "year of peanut" campaign.

In many ways then, Nestle's NPD and advertising drive behind Butterfinger can be viewed as a statement of intent. If the teaser, available at http://www.butterfingercups.com/, is anything to go by it would seem the ad itself is even more explicit in its rivalry.

Nestle has dropped Butterfinger's usual sponsor Bart Simpson in a more that sees it take more direct aim at Reese's.

The spot features a couple - chocolate and peanut butter - in therapy. The (peanut) husband emphasises they are "perfect" together: "When something is good why change it? Nobody likes change..." "Or excitement," the (chocolate) wife interrupts. The therapist suggests they "try something different" - an idea that is warmly greeted by the wife.

The message is clear: the classic American chocolate and peanut butter combination offered by Reese's is good - but why not try something exciting and new? Enter Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups.

"We are looking forward to putting the spotlight on Butterfinger's clever, irreverent sense of humour during the most watched telecast and biggest sporting event in America," says Natasha Madan, Nestle's US confections and snacks marketing director. "Consumers have said the peanut butter cup is a favorite flavour combination, so we're excited to kick it up a notch with a dose of Butterfinger."