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A Curiously Quirky Ad Campaign

The TV ads have this retro '70s look, and the online image is almost sepia-tone, but the pitch methodology is as up-to-date as the latest developments in nanotech.

The TV and online campaign for Kraft Foods' new Altoids Sours (think citrus, not mint, round tins, not rectangles) mimics the look of vintage high school educational films, but consumers who get to the Web site will find it's not for the faint of bandwidth.

In fact, it's chock full of animations and Windows Media and QuickTime mini-movies that can be downloaded.

And yes, the words "curious" and "curiously" are used with abandon.

The TV campaign entices consumers to sign on to www.gonesour, where the theme is: "My Altoids are changing ... and I'm OK with that."

Altoids is a 200-year-old English mint, now marketed in metal tins by Kraft's Callard and Bowser-Suchard unit, that became an American candy icon in the late 1990s through quirky ad images and one-liners on bus shelters/billboards/subway placards and in targeted print ads.

The nationwide campaign debuted in the United States in 1995, although the candy was first sold here in 1918. It is now said to have a 25 percent share of the candy mint market.

When it came time for the launch of the new citrus flavors -- Citrus Sour and Tangerine Sour - the ad call went right back to LBWorks, a unit of Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Chicago, which handles Altoids.

"We thought that developing television ads would be a fun and curious way to celebrate the launch of our new Altoids sours," the Web site says in its FAQ.

"Historically, Altoids ads have sought to entertain and engage our most loyal users and we thought television allowed us the opportunity to add a new dimension to the curiously strong personality you're all familiar with."

The TV ads are appearing on MTV and VH1, E! Entertainment and Bravo. A Kraft spokeswoman declined to discuss the budget for the campaign, however.

Viewers who make it over to the Web site get to re-visit high school science class, sex ed and history, You can even sign the yearbook as you think to yourself, "my God, did I look that geeky?"

And if it's all just too much deja vu, you can bail out to the Altoids.com site, where they have a gallery of some of the older ads that pushed the brand into the national spotlight.

The question is, will all this push Altoids Sours? Clearly Kraft thinks so.

"This was the right idea for this program at this time," Andrew Burke, senior brand manager for Altoids, told Advertising Age recently. "We just thought that this could elevate this campaign, grab some eyeballs and surprise people."

Combining TV with online interactive is certainly not new. Sometimes it works, sometimes (remember the sock puppet) it doesn't.

It's no secret that Internet advertising has been in a slump for several years. In fact, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has a branding campaign of its own going to push the online advertising concept, based on case studies supplied by leading national advertisers that highlight their successful use of the interactive medium,

Under the theme "Interactive Is The Active Ingredient In the Marketing Mix", the year-long campaign is being targeted to the decision makers in the marketing and agency realm.

Internet advertising revenue in the U.S. totaled an estimated $1.55 billion for the first quarter of 2002, the IAB says, declining 6.5 percent from the 2001 fourth quarter, and down 18 percent from the first quarter of 2001.