OPINION: MILLS ON BUSINESS

Last week, our sister magazine, Marketing, got together with AC Nielsen MEAL to produce the annual ranking of the UK’s top 50 fmcg brands. Since this always provides a snapshot of changing British tastes, it was picked up by the tabloids and dealt with entirely predictably.

Last week, our sister magazine, Marketing, got together with AC

Nielsen MEAL to produce the annual ranking of the UK’s top 50 fmcg

brands. Since this always provides a snapshot of changing British

tastes, it was picked up by the tabloids and dealt with entirely

predictably.



As you might expect, the top eight - Coca-Cola, Walkers, Nescafe,

Andrex, Ariel, Persil, Pampers and Pepsi - only shuffle places, while

Stella Artois and Muller are new to the top ten. Lower down, the big

risers are Pringles, Heinz Baked Beans, Colgate and Mr Kipling. Big

fallers include Whiskas, Daz, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Kleenex.



Now it would be interesting to take the risers and fallers in the fmcg

stakes and then (purely subjectively, of course) look at their

advertising.



But the more striking point - for clients at least - is less obvious:

that the top 50 brands rarely change agencies. In fact, I can only think

of five with brands in the table - Coke, Andrex, Budweiser, Mr Kip-ling,

Whiskas and Walkers (which moved after this survey was completed) - that

have changed within the past five years. Of those, only two - Coke (in a

category of its own as far as agencies go) and Whiskas - changed

voluntarily (so to speak), while the rest changed as a result of their

own or their agency’s global realignments. It would be simplistic to

link the two events, but it should be recorded nonetheless that Whiskas,

despite its much-lauded ads through M&C Saatchi, is doing less well than

before.



But the lesson here is obvious. Brands that are successful in the long

term rarely change agencies. Although individuals may come and go at

both client and agency, agencies clearly build up a repository of

knowledge that is invaluable. That is not to say such long-term

partnerships lead to better advertising per se - you just have to look

at some of the top 50 brands’ advertising to know that this is not the

case - but as we all know, mould-breaking advertising is not the be-all

and end-all of the game.



Marketing directors looking to make their mark on an already successful

brand should realise that changing the agency should be the last thing

on their minds.



That said, there is one aspect of the table that should depress us. It

is that very few of these brands ever win (or even enter) the IPA

Effectiveness Awards. Exceptions are Walkers, Stella and Gold Blend, but

it seems curious that some of those fmcg companies whose success has

been built on consistent advertising (ie P&G, Unilever, Heinz, Mars,

Bass) don’t seem to wish to make the wider case for advertising.



A poor man’s Bob Dylan called Barry McGuire had a big hit in the 70s

with a song called Eve of Destruction, notable only for the way he found

50 words all ending in ’-on’.



The launch of ONdigital reminded me of this since, according to the

press pack, the name is meant to make us think of concepts such as

’creatiON’, ’televisiON’ and so ON. This is either very clever or very

up its bum.



I go for the latter, but what really puzzles me is why the biggest

revolutiON (sorry, it’s catching) in broadcasting history doesn’t

include TV anywhere in its title. The whole idea of digital has already

thrown the average viewer into a state of cONfusiON. So why are they

trying to make it harder still?



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