Canned-tuna marketing campaign launched


Steven Hedlund

Published on
January 16, 2011

The National Fisheries Institute’s Tuna Council on Monday launched a multi-million dollar marketing campaign featuring TV, print and Internet advertising aimed at growing the canned-tuna category by reminding Americans of the shelf-stable seafood’s multiple attributes.

This is the first time that America’s “Big Three” canned-tuna brands — StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea — have united to deliver a marketing campaign of this magnitude, according to Gavin Gibbons, NFI’s director of media relations. Thailand’s tuna processors are also behind the campaign.

Featuring the tagline “Tuna The Wonderfish,” the campaign will run “for the better part of 2011,” he said.

On Monday, three 15- and 30-second commercials are set to begin airing on network and cable TV starring a bubbly homemaker named Joy who promotes canned tuna as nutritious, versatile, convenient and affordable. The spots will appear in the mornings and evenings during nationally syndicated programs such as Oprah, Today, 60 Minutes, Conan and Modern Family.

In one spot, titled “Latin Lovers,” Joy says, “Tuna is a natural source of omega-3s, and that is good for your heart.” The spot concludes with the campaign’s tagline and website,

The other two spots feature astronauts and Bungeejumpers. The former claims tuna is part of a healthy diet, low in calories and can help keep your weight down, while the latter says tuna is quick and easy and ideal for an active lifestyle.

“Americans have been taking tuna for granted,” said Gibbons, adding that the spots are “a gentle, light-hearted reminder” that tuna is nutritious, versatile and convenient.

What’s more, the campaign encourages consumers to be creative and think beyond traditional uses such as the ubiquitous tuna-salad sandwich by introducing them to non-traditional meals such as tuna pasta, tuna tacos, tuna fajitas, tuna bruschetta and tuna paninis.

In addition to the TV spots, the campaign includes print ads in dozens of fitness, family and cooking magazines and billboards in health clubs, as well as the aforementioned website, which also debuts on Monday.

The Tuna Council worked with advertising firm Grey New York to develop the campaign.

StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea have all stepped up their marketing efforts in the past two to three years in an attempt to boost canned tuna sales.

Canned tuna sales took a hit in 2004 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency warned pregnant and nursing women and young children to limit consumption of albacore tuna to six ounces per week due to the health risks associated with the neurotoxin methylmercury. But many Americans misinterpreted the advisory, and some stopped buying canned tuna altogether.

Since then, canned tuna sales have rebounded, thanks partly to consumers’ desire for value-oriented food items due to the economic downturn.

Canned tuna remains America’s second-favorite seafood item behind shrimp. Per-capita canned tuna consumption totaled 2.5 pounds in 2009, down from 2.8 pounds in 2008. But it hasn’t topped 3 pounds since 2005. In 2003, the year before the mercury advisory was issued, canned tuna consumption peaked at 3.4 pounds.

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