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Marketers Cross Industry Lines to Cut Through Ad Clutter

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BUYERS of Frito-Lay's Ruffles potato chips are finding a "prize" in the bag: an offer of 15 minutes of free long-distance calling from MCI Communications Corporation.

The promotion, also advertised on the outside of the bag, invites snackers to dial 1-800-288-CRUNCH to switch permanently to MCI as a long-distance carrier. Callers can also comment on whether Frito-Lay's latest chips are crunchier and more flavorful than they were before.

The deal is typical of a different kind of two-for-the-price-of-one offer that many corporations are trying: When consumers by one product, they also get a little bit of another.

"It's a relatively inexpensive way for both organizations to piggyback off each other and offer customers more value," says Bill Ross, professor of marketing at the the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in Philadelphia.

Professor Ross says such efforts, because they are unusual, can help a company cut through the "clutter" of other advertising and affect people's purchasing decisions.

"Any time I can put an ad in some location where it's new and different, ... [that's] a lot better than being the third of five commercials at 8 o'clock on a Tuesday evening," he says.

Pepsico Inc., which owns Frito-Lay, teamed up with numerous other companies this summer to promote its beverage division, giving out 40 million "Gotta Have It" cards with its drink packs. Consumers used the plastic cards to get discounts from other companies.

"It's like carrying a little piece of Pepsi in your wallet all summer long," says Pepsi spokeswoman Leigh Curtin, referring to the advertising value of the card.

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