Mayonnaise War! Kraft Turns Belligerent in Fight Against Hellmann's "Lies"

Last Updated May 27, 2010 1:43 PM EDT

What the hell is going on in the mayonnaise business? Kraft (KFT), fresh from its baffling hipster campaign for Miracle Whip, has rolled the dice again this time on its Sandwich Shop Mayo brand, with new ads that accuse archrival Hellmann's Mayonnaise of "lying" to customers.

There's a reason you don't read much about mayonnaise in the business press. It's boring. People tend to favor the brands their parents kept in the fridge, and because the stuff never, ever seems to go moldy, inventory turnover at the customer level is often low. For managers, it's a dream business: Lots of loyalty and no need to spend too much convincing your customers to keep buying. They're already on automatic pilot.

But Kraft appears to be bent on injecting drama and intrigue into the sleepy salad dressing biz. In this commercial, a woman who has discovered Kraft's new flavored mayo line talks about the stuff as if she just got out of rehab or therapy. She's actually weeping in one scene:

I thought they were good, you know, I was lying to myself actually ... I feel like Hellman's lied to me. They told me it was good, you know, they kept saying to me that's the only mayonnaise ... garlic and herb mayo changed my life.
Yes, it's comedy, I get it. But get this: Kraft tripled its ad spending behind mayo last year (albeit to just $11 million, but still). The ad agency behind the campaign is McGarryBowen, also responsible for the Miracle Whip "We will not tone it down!" effort, which portrayed mayo eaters as overweight losers.

There's no sign of a response from Unilever (UN), which owns Hellmann's. Over at its site, it's business as usual: cooking recipes and stuff about sandwiches. A search of YouTube shows Hellman's commercials haven't changed in decades. Does the European giant even know that war has broken out in its American colony?