NEWS: McVitie’s plans to scrap penguins

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 years.

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

solus tests.

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.

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