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From NFL To 'Scandal,' Whole Foods Buys TV Ads To Boost Its Brand

If you tune into Game 1 of the World Series tonight, you may catch this ad for Whole Foods Market.

The chain is launching its first-ever national brand campaign, including TV ads during buzzworthy network and cable shows. Think Modern Familyand Scandal, as well as late-night shows — including The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live and the NFL's Thursday Night Football.

The ad campaign is part of Whole Foods' effort to brand itself as America's Healthiest Grocery Store, at a time when competition has eaten into its profits. As mainstream grocers — from Harris Teeter to Wegmans to Wal-Mart — have beefed up their local and organic offerings, Whole Foods may no longer seem as unique to shoppers.

And Whole Foods shareholders have taken note. As The New York Times pointed out last week, the company's stock is down more than 30 percent this year.

I spoke to Jeannine D'Addario, Whole Foods' new global vice president of communication, who is teeing up the new campaign.

"Competition makes us all better," she told The Salt, when asked why the company had chosen this particular moment to launch a national ad campaign.

"We are leaders and pioneers in this industry," D'Addario told us. And as the chain seeks to introduce its brand to new customers, "it's important for us to talk about who we are and what we offer," she says.

Millennials, after all, may not remember a time when Whole Foods stood out as the first grocer — save for local food co-ops — to tout its local produce, its commitment to sustainable growing practices and its relationships with farmers and ranchers.

The chain is also working to overcome its "Whole Paycheck" reputation. "We've worked really hard over the last few years to really move away from a high-price perception," D'Addario says. She says the chain has cut operating expenses so it can pass along savings to shoppers.

"We don't consider ourselves as a luxury brand or a bargain brand," she says, adding, "We cater to all demographics. For example, if you want to eat healthy on $5 a day at Whole Foods Market, you certainly can."

D'Addario points to the chain's 365 Every Day Value line as examples of good value. And of course, if you want to splurge, the chains offers plenty of opportunities.

After all, Whole Foods isn't just targeting millennials — who may be a little more cash-strapped than boomers — with its new ad campaign. D'Addario says the company is also targeting a broader demographic, 25- to 49-year-old, "socially conscious" consumers who "care about their health, care about quality products and really want the information about where their food comes from."

D'Addario comes to Whole Foods from Stanford Children's Health. Before that, she worked for the Walt Disney Co. overseeing marketing for infant, toddler and preschool brands. I asked her how working for Disney prepared her for the challenge at Whole Foods.

"Disney is all about telling wonderful stories that delight and enhance and provide optimism to consumers, as well as great consumer experiences — and that is really what Whole Foods does," she says.

Whether you're talking Frozen princesses or groceries, it's all "about authentic storytelling," she says — as illustrated by the new ads.

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Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.