MONTVALE, N.J. -- Based upon the success of its first-ever broadcast variety show, A&P here plans to use television productions to promote its private-label brands at least once a year.
The hourlong television program, "America's Choice . . . Celebrating 135 Years of the Great American & Pacific Tea Co.," used celebrity guests in a variety-show format to link the introduction of the chain's new America's Choice label with the company's history.
"We believe this was not only a first in the private-label industry, but also a first in supermarket retailing. We're going to do it on a yearly basis," said Don O'Leary, A&P's corporate vice president of marketing. "It could be done more often, but at this point there are no definite plans."
A broadcast program is also being planned for Master's Choice, A&P's premium private-label program, said O'Leary.
O'Leary discussed the show during a workshop about trends in advertising private-label products and their effectiveness in reaching consumers. He also discussed the show in an interview with SN. The workshop was held in New York June 15 and 16 by the Private Label Manufacturers Association.
The April broadcast had reached 3.5 million to 4 million people via 70 stations across the country -- many in non-A&P trading areas, according to the chain.
Beyond its implications for future A&P private-label advertising, the program may be the precursor of a larger retailer trend, said O'Leary. He said if retailers want the most out of their broadcast advertising dollars, they
must consider creating their own programs -- a concept harking back to the 1950s, when national manufacturers did just that.
His prediction was supported by Howard Nass, senior vice president of the advertising firm Foote Cone & Belding, which worked with A&P on the show. Nass also spoke at the PLMA workshop.
"You've got to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition," said Nass. "And one of the ways is to control your own destiny by taking back programming. That's easier said than done, because of the cost factor. But you can control the cost factor . . . . We demonstrated that here. You can do a quality show with a reasonable budget, and the payoff will be on the screen and in the stores.
"Don't leave it up to the networks to control the programming," Nass said.
In fact, Nass added, "Ultimately, [the show] costs us less. In other words, if we had gone out and bought television time, with no control over the editorial content or the programming content, it would have cost us more.
"It cost us 65% of a typical half-hour show that you see on the air every day, and 35% of an hour; and 15% to 20% of what a normal special would have cost," Nass estimated.
While O'Leary declined to go into specifics about the cost of the program, he told SN the results have been excellent, with America's Choice products moving off the shelves as expected or better.
O'Leary said that, realistically, A&P doesn't expect its three private labels to reach the 35% to 40% distribution of their European counterparts??.
The company's three store brands are: the premium-tier Master's Choice; America's Choice, the middle-tier label, which replaces older labels from A&P, Waldbaum's, Kohl's, and other A&P banners, and the bottom-tier Savings Plus.
Currently, 600 America's Choice brand items are available in A&P's various store formats, he said. He added the chain hopes to market 1,400 America's Choice products by November, at the end of the current rollout. When asked whether pressure from big spending by competing national brands would eventually threaten to push A&P's new private label off the shelves, O'Leary said that there may be some jockeying back and forth at store level. A&P, however, is dedicated to its new private-label program, which has been in the works for two years, he said.
The retailing giant has developed a "total media program" to support the brand.
"It's a three-year budget and plan for our America's Choice products," said O'Leary. "To position America's Choice, we made a decision that we had to really compete with the national brand. So we established a budget that included a total media package of broadcast, in-store and print.