OPINION: MILLS ON ... REVIVING ADVERTISING ICONS

What self-restraint last week. With only one exception (dear old Media Week, wouldn’t you know), the trade press managed to write headlines about Del Monte’s move to Delaney Fletcher Bozell without resorting to the obvious pun. The big news, of course, is that Delaney Fletcher is to ditch Y&R’s ’reggae lite’ advertising and revive the Man from Del Monte.

What self-restraint last week. With only one exception (dear old

Media Week, wouldn’t you know), the trade press managed to write

headlines about Del Monte’s move to Delaney Fletcher Bozell without

resorting to the obvious pun. The big news, of course, is that Delaney

Fletcher is to ditch Y&R’s ’reggae lite’ advertising and revive the Man

from Del Monte.



Now this may not sound like much. Indeed, it may even sound like the

obvious thing to do. It’s an old trick: languishing brand makes a splash

by bringing back a famous advertising icon. After all, who doesn’t know

what the Man from Del Monte says? He’s so revered that even John Cleese

is able to parody him for a Sainsbury’s Red Nose Day ad - surely a bit

of an irony for a third-world charity.



But let’s just pause for a moment. This is the bloke who, if you recall,

used to arrive in the plantations, which I took to be somewhere in

Central America, and squeeze the fruit in a very droit de seigneur kind

of way.



He looked cool and urbane in his white linen suit and panama hat. The

Honduran peasants who toiled in his fields looked anything but. Clearly,

though, they were thrilled to be working for a corporation like Del

Monte.



They obviously hung on his every word, particularly the word ’yes’ -

which among other things meant that they could at last look forward to

being paid. Hooray. Nice white man, happy natives. Very 90s - 1890s,

that is.



But it’s actually much worse than this. If you think about it, the Man

from Del Monte actually represents a form of American economic

imperialism - the sort of imperialism that sees giant US

agro-corporations like Chiquita and Dole triggering banana wars.



Can they, therefore, really be serious about bringing him back? Well,

they’d be mad not to, not least because you couldn’t build a property

like that in today’s market without a massive budget - which the company

obviously hasn’t got. Moreover, Del Monte is clearly facing steep

competition in this market. There’s not a lot of value added in this

sector - its attempts to launch products like Fruitini and Batik

notwithstanding. At the same time, branded items are under pressure from

supermarket own-label lines. Then there are rival products like

Tropicana, now under the ownership of the deep-pocketed Seagram and, in

the children’s fruit drinks market, Procter & Gamble’s Sunny

Delight.



The trick, of course, lies in finding a way to contemporise the Man

without making him risible (remember Cap’n Birdseye and the introduction

of a young and sexy James Bond lookalike designed to appeal to mums).

The answer, one suspects, is to find a way to show how the Man uses his

judgement and experience to help Del Monte deliver a better quality

product faster to market - and one that is therefore worth a premium

against own-label.



There’s a principle in all this which agencies and marketing departments

should note. Too often, they reinvent the wheel when what’s needed is a

bit of restraint and a little redirection of an existing property.



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