With Duncan ads featuring sitcom star, supermarket chain joins a category trend 

LOS ANGELES Albertsons, the nation’s second-largest supermarket chain, takes a detour from its produce-centric retail positioning with a $145 million image campaign, breaking today, that touts its stores as the place for busy moms to shop.

The TV and radio effort from independent Duncan & Associates, Los Angeles, stars Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton from the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. She is the first celebrity Albertsons has used in its 64-year history.

The campaign introduces the tag, “Helping make your life easier.” “Our positioning is that Albertsons meets lifestyle needs for consumers who lead fast-paced lives and want to make smart decisions for their family,” said Pamela Powell, client group vp of marketing. Research indicated consumers wanted a retailer that could make their lives easier, she said.

The previous tag, “It’s your store,” had been used for at least 10 years.

Four 30-second spots show Heaton on the go. In one, she drives and talks on her cell phone, noting that she needs to pick up a prescription and is “snack mom” tonight. She rushes to Albertsons, where an employee directs her to the granola bars, and picks up the prescription at Sav-on Drug, located inside the store. An employee offers to open another register for her, which seems like star treatment until a noncelebrity customer receives the same offer.

Another spot has Heaton throwing a party. Guests comment on the fresh food and wonder who catered the affair. Heaton overhears and mentions that she got the food at Albertsons.

Other spots show her gushing over her preferred savings card and requesting an Essensia product on set. Essensia turns out to be a premium private-label brand available only at Albertsons.

Other versions of the spots include space for price/item messages. There are also seven 60-second radio ads.

The effort is meant to create more of a personality for Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons, which faces increased competition from supermarkets, mass retailers and even dollar stores, said Powell. While Albertsons is the second-largest pure grocery chain, behind Kroger, Wal-Mart is now the largest seller of groceries in the country, according to Hoovers Online.

The shift to an image campaign is consistent with what other supermarkets, including Giant Food, BI-LO, Publix and Giant Eagle, are doing as they try to establish a point of difference [Adweek, June 23].

Heaton, who signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract with Albertsons, epitomizes the chain’s target, since she is a working mom with four young children, Powell said.

The campaign will run in 24 of the 28 states where Albertsons has stores. It will also be altered and used for stores operating under the Jewel brand in Chicago and the Acme brand in Philadelphia.

The TV spots will run on shows such as CSI, ER, 60 Minutes, Friends and The West Wing. Interpublic Group shop Initiative Media in Los Angeles handled the media buy.