McVitie’s is testing consumer reaction to a plan to drop the penguins
from TV ads for its chocolate biscuit brand for the first time in 20
The snacks company is splitting the UK in half with viewers in the North
of England and Scotland seeing the new campaign, while others in the
South are shown updated versions of last year’s commercials - featuring
stock footage of the familiar talking birds and the invitation to
‘p...p...pick up a Penguin’.
The experiment marks a return to favour for the split test, once a
favourite research tool for advertisers but rarely used by today’s
The new advertising comes in the form of three ten-second films that
develop the theme of ‘feeling peckish’. One spot features the singer,
Dannii Minogue, apparently doing a haircare commercial, only to find
herself suddenly sporting a huge yellow beak.
Other celebrities - the TV presenter, Ulrika Jonsson and the Arsenal
footballer, Ian Wright - appear on Adshel posters in support of the new
campaign. Media is being handled by Leo Burnett.
Both sets of films have been produced to find out if the penguin
campaign, created by Saatchi and Saatchi in the 70s and continued by
Publicis for the past ten years, has run its course.
Stephen Meade, the group account director on McVitie’s at Publicis,
said: ‘The penguins campaign has been very successful and has a great
recall, but we felt it was time to move on.’
Split advertising tests have declined in popularity in recent years as
qualitative and quantative research techniques have grown more
sophisticated and because of generous deals offered by TV companies for
But Andy Rush, McVitie’s marketing director, said: ‘We feel it
appropriate to test our new creative theme in the only market that
matters - among consumers.’
The test coincides with the introduction of line extensions under the
Penguin brand including a dark chocolate version and miniature Penguins.
‘We’re trying to re-energise the brand and make it more contemporary,’
Meade said. ‘But the target is housewives who buy the product for their
children so the advertising has a gentle edge.’
Both sets of commercials were written by James Burrows, art directed by
Seb Bishop, and directed by Steve Lowe through RSA Films.