’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
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
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
’But we were also quite nervous about it leaking and we had to think
about our strategy for releasing it to the press.’