CLOSE-UP: CLIENT OF THE WEEK - Oxo takes laid-back approach/Oxo’s brand manager aims to give the product a fresh appeal, Claire Cozens says

’I got a tingling feeling when I saw them - I just knew they were what we had been looking for,’ says Sophie Johnston, brand manager for Oxo at Van den Bergh Foods, of the new Oxo ads, devised by J. Walter Thompson.

’I got a tingling feeling when I saw them - I just knew they were

what we had been looking for,’ says Sophie Johnston, brand manager for

Oxo at Van den Bergh Foods, of the new Oxo ads, devised by J. Walter

Thompson.



It was the end of a long trawl. The decision to drop the Oxo family

after 42 commercials was taken three years ago after Van den Bergh

decided that the idea of the Oxo mum and her family eating together was

no longer relevant to the way people live today.



The new ads went on air on Boxing Day and early indications are that

they have gone down well. The campaign features a more laid-back

attitude to cooking and eating - the new ’families’ are, variously, a

group of lads who live together, two couples enjoying romantic dinners,

and a family with a working mother.



The ads are based around the idea of a recipe that is easy to throw

together and involves Oxo. In one, ’lager’, one of four flat-sharing

blokes is delegated to cook chilli during the big match half-time break.

’Serve with crisps and lager while vigorously stuffing the opposition,’

the voiceover recommends.



In another, ’d’amore’, we see a woman returning from a bad day at work

as her boyfriend cooks a lasagne. ’Fry mince, slowly adding liquid,’

goes the voiceover, as he chucks the mince into the pan before topping

up his harassed girlfriend’s wine glass. ’At this point, it’s worth

remembering that a lasagne takes about 30 minutes ... which could come

in handy,’ the voiceover continues, as the pair retire to the

bedroom.



Johnston joined Van den Bergh as a graduate trainee in September 1996

after studying biology at university. ’I decided I wanted to do

something completely different,’ she says. ’I chose marketing for the

diversity, but also because you get a sense of achievement from having

ownership of a brand.’



She joined the Oxo team in 1998 and has worked on the latest campaign

throughout its development. The team briefed JWT for a replacement

campaign back in March 1998 and the original idea was to find a new,

more modern family - the third in the brand’s history. But after the

agency had come back with a few ideas, the Oxo team decided they wanted

to move things on completely. So they rebriefed JWT in November 1998,

and the latest campaign began to take shape.



After news of the demise of the Oxo family emerged, Johnston found

herself thrust into the limelight for the first time, handling hundreds

of press inquiries.



’We knew we’d get quite a lot of press attention because we’d seen what

had happened when PG Tips dropped the chimps for a while,’ Johnston

says.



’But we were also quite nervous about it leaking and we had to think

about our strategy for releasing it to the press.’



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