Last week, Nestle stripped its roster agency, Publicis, of its
entire global Nescafe business and appointed the rival roster shop,
McCann-Erickson, to implement phase two of its international branding
The move marks yet another change of direction in the coffee giant’s
Last year, McCanns was shunned when Nestle appointed Publicis to the
first phase of the campaign, dubbed ’open up’. The campaign ran in 30
different markets worldwide but was greeted with a lukewarm reception
from the UK advertising industry.
The work, which featured people from all over the world enjoying a cup
of the coffee, was largely viewed as cliched and sentimental. It is a
vehicle for promoting all of Nestle’s coffee brands, which include Gold
Blend, Blend 37, Alta Rica and Cap Colombie.
Before that, Nestle took the decision to axe its local Nescafe Gold
Blend advertising, even though the campaign had been popular in the UK
and was subsequently adapted for other markets around the world,
including the US, Chile and France.
Now the ’open up’ campaign has not only been moved to McCanns but
extended to air in 110 markets worldwide. So, if phase one of the
campaign was so successful, why change the agency? And if it wasn’t, why
extend it to cover so many more territories?
’Phase one of the campaign had been running for about a year when we
called the review,’ David Hudson, director of communications and
corporate affairs at Nestle UK, says. ’But we felt that it was beginning
to work. Our latest business results showed an increase in the brand’s
market share. There have been some mixed reviews about the creative
content and some people regretted the loss of the highly successful Gold
Blend advertising, but that campaign had been running for years and was
becoming jaded - you always have to be looking for new ideas.’
’Nestle thought that phase one of the campaign was successful,’ Ben
Langdon, chief executive and managing director at McCanns, says. ’But it
can be improved. Publicis set the ball rolling but our proposals for
phase two were by far the best.’
Despite obvious problems with phase one, Nestle is determined to keep
the same creative idea. Hudson says: ’The work that comes out of McCanns
now will be an evolution rather than a revolution. There will be no
Nestle says it wants to establish Nescafe as a ’mega brand’, one that
will be recognised around the world. The company is confident that it is
taking the right approach. It spent pounds 8 million in the UK alone
last year and the spend for phase two will be considerably greater.
The sociability of drinking coffee is Nestle’s ploy to unite people
around the world and it’s a useful strategy because it allows the
company to show different races and nationalities enjoying its brand.
The question is: how do you devise a campaign that is not culturally
bound? The British may be drinking more coffee than ever but we don’t
drink it the same way as the Italians or the Americans.
’Nestle has a clear hierarchy of brands with Nescafe very much at the
top,’ a senior advertising source says. ’The decision to embark on a
global campaign of this scale is as much about making the Nestle name
global as it is about Nescafe. It’s a corporate push.’
McCanns is now charged with the task of creating a campaign that
straddles more markets than has ever been attempted with an instant
The advertising will have to appeal to a very broad age group and a
massive cross-section of the population worldwide - all within very
narrow executional boundaries.
’With the dramatic change in the role of coffee in the UK in the past
five years, you will always have the pressure of balancing a global
campaign with local market needs,’ says Richard Pinder, managing
director of Ogilvy & Mather, which holds the advertising account for the
Kraft Jacobs Suchard-owned Maxwell House. ’If you are smart, you can do
it and it works for some products - but it has yet to be done with a
In 1996, pounds 725 million was spent on instant coffee in the UK, with
Nestle taking 58 per cent of value sales. It is streets ahead of the
Kraft - whose brands include Maxwell House and Kenco - came second with
22 per cent.
But at the premium and fastest growing end of the market - the ground
and roast coffee sector - things aren’t looking as healthy for
Own-label products counted for 42 per cent of sales in 1996 with no
brand labels reaching the level of domination necessary to keep them at
Nestle is under threat from many corners, not least of which is the
expansion of the UK’s cafe society. We are experiencing a revolution in
our national tastes as coffee houses multiply on the high street. We now
spend pounds 35 million a year in coffee houses - up from just pounds 4
million in 1994 - and Mintel has estimated that there is room for
another 1,500 outlets nationwide before the market is saturated.
’The coffee you find in these shops certainly isn’t Nescafe,’ one source
says, ’and that just serves to undermine the quality of Nestle’s
Opting for a huge global push, Nestle is trying to be all things to all
people and this simply is not possible with something as culturally
specific as coffee drinking habits. To underestimate the value of great
local advertising could be a very dangerous thing.’