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With a night campaign, Kellogg’s aims for snappier sales

The challenge for cereal marketers is not to get consumers to eat it. About 93 percent of Americans already do, according to Mintel, a market research firm. Rather, it’s hard to get Americans to eat it more often.

Cereal also has increasingly competed with yogurt, especially Greek yogurt in recent years, as well as other options like breakfast items at Starbucks.

Revenues for cold cereal fell 4.1 percent, to $9.02 billion, in the 52 weeks to Nov. 30, according to IRI, a market data firm. Now Kellogg’s, whose cereal revenues declined 6 percent over the period, is introducing a broad campaign that encourages consumers to set out cereal for breakfast before they tuck in for the night.

Cereal advertising, naturally, tends to feature lively kitchens and cheery families in the morning. But a new Kellogg’s commercial opens to the sound of crickets and the exterior of a suburban home in the dead of night. Inside, a table is set with bowls, spoons and boxes of Special K, Frosted Mini-Wheats and Raisin Bran.

“Waiting quietly as the rest recharge is the most important box in the world,” says the voice of actor Kyle MacLachlan, who speaks softly as if wishing not to wake the sleeping. Cereal falls in slow motion against a black background. “Crispy flakes, sons of the sun itself.”

A bowl of cereal seems to sit on the horizon line as the sun dramatically rises behind it. “Tomorrow,” sung by Andrea McArdle from the original Broadway cast recording of the musical “Annie,” plays. Milk cascades onto the cereal and, as a boy is seen sleeping in his bed and his parents in theirs, the voice-over continues. “A magic formula of protein and grain that helps turn little boys to soccer players, moms to supermoms.”

As the voice-over concludes, “Tomorrow is yours to claim, set yourself with Kellogg’s tonight,” the brand’s tag line, “See you at breakfast,” appears at the end.

The campaign, which also includes print and digital advertising, is by the Chicago office of Leo Burnett, part of the Publicis Groupe, which has been Kellogg’s agency since 1949. A 30-second and 60-second version of the commercial will be introduced on Monday, with a 30-second version that features only one brand, Special K, being introduced on Dec. 29.

Kellogg’s, which declined to reveal spending for the campaign, spent $246 million on advertising for the first six months of 2014, according to the Kantar Media unit of WPP.

In 2014, Americans’ breakfasts included cold cereal 29 percent of the time, down from 37 percent in 1994, according to Darren Seifer, an analyst with the NPD Group, a market research firm.

The most popular time for cold cereals to advertise on television is during prime time, followed by the afternoon from 1 to 3, and the morning from 7 to 9, according to Kantar Media.

Kellogg’s also will advertise prominently at night on the Weather Channel’s popular mobile app, Geoffroy said.

The print ads in the new campaign are atypical as well, featuring not only cereal and milk against a jet-black background, but also unusually lofty copy.

“Behold an enchanted protein and grains alchemy,” says one print ad, in which a swirling ribbon of milk somehow has cornflakes skimming along its surface. “The magical marriage of sunbaked grains in milk’s powerful liquid embrace conjures 9 to 10 grams of protein at your body’s service.”

Britt Nolan, a Leo Burnett creative director, said setting the campaign at night lent it to less utilitarian advertising copy.

“Morning is all business and kind of a serious time of day,” Nolan said. “But nighttime is when we dream, when people are a little bit more loose and free, and it kind of gives us license to be a little more romantic – and a little bit more hyperbolic.”