ConAgra enlists ex-rival in hunger fight

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 12:00 am

Consumer-product giants that were once fierce competitors are joining forces for a good-cause marketing campaign meant to help a nonprofit alleviate childhood hunger.

The marketers, ConAgra Foods and Procter & Gamble, are teaming up for this year’s installment of a campaign that Omaha-based ConAgra began in 2010. The program helps fund Feeding America by prompting donations to the organization for product codes that consumers enter online. Five agencies are working on the campaign for 2014, with a budget estimated at $14 million to $18 million.

The campaign, which carries the theme “Child Hunger Ends Here,” is to begin Monday. Elements include music-centered commercials that feature “Invisible” by young country singer Hunter Hayes; ads featuring actor Mario Lopez; donations to Feeding America for each download of “Invisible” on iTunes; and a website, childhungerendshere.com.

For decades, Procter and ConAgra sold rival brands of peanut butter, Jif and Peter Pan, respectively; and cooking oil, Crisco and Wesson. But Procter sold Crisco and Jif to J.M. Smucker in 2002 and subsequently left the packaged-food business. That means the campaign can cover more ground in stores by representing packaged-food categories through ConAgra and household staples like detergent, diapers, shampoo and paper goods through Procter. Participating ConAgra brands include Banquet, Marie Callender’s, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice and Hunt’s. Among the participating Procter brands are Charmin, Pampers and Tide.

“We can make joint calls on the retailers, and that helps retailers look at it as a bigger, more powerful program,” said Brett Groom, senior vice president for content integration and activation at ConAgra. “We certainly hope to build this into a multiyear relationship.”

The ending-hunger campaign is another example of a popular trend known by names like cause marketing and purpose marketing, by which advertisers seek to do well by doing good. An increasing number of consumers are seeking out brands from companies that donate to nonprofits at the same time they ring up sales and profits.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find many Americans who don’t care about hungry kids,” said Soraya Faber, executive vice president and group account director at Trisect, which is handling tasks for the campaign like strategic planning and in-store marketing. “But to busy moms who want to help but have a lot going on, doing so can seemingly be out of reach.

“The campaign is a simple way to make a difference because it involves products they’re buying already,” Faber added, “and the mechanism for donations is simple: Go to the Child Hunger Ends Here website and enter the code” found on the packages that a consumer has bought.

In addition to a demographic group that Faber describes as “the example-setting supermom,” the campaign is aimed at a group she calls “purpose-seeking empty-nesters,” who are socially conscious “older moms, maybe with kids in college.”

Hayes, who is 22, has been working with ConAgra on Child Hunger Ends Here since 2012, with a song, “Here’s Hope,” he helped write.

“I was astonished by the statistics” from Feeding America that more than 1 in 5 American children “aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from,” he said.

The campaign pledges to donate 11.1 cents for each code entered on the website, the cost for Feeding America to provide one meal through its network of local food banks. ConAgra is promising a minimum of 1 million meals ($111,111) and a maximum of 5 million ($555,555), and Procter is promising a minimum of 1 million and a maximum of 2 million ($222,222).

ConAgra and Procter also make large donations of products to Feeding America, and the ConAgra Foods Foundation also gives money to the group.

Groom estimated the value of ConAgra donations to Feeding America in the last five years at $40 million. The ceiling on the donations — and its being less than the campaign budget — are “absolutely something there’s conversation about,” he said.

Although “we are also a business trying to return to our shareholders and drive sales,” he said, “raising awareness about this issue makes it more of a significant commitment.”

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