Advertising has protected Britain's leading grocery brands from the onslaught of supermarket own-label products, according to research published this week.
Most well-advertised brand leaders continue to dominate the same markets they did 30 years ago, having seen off the own-label challenge, the survey concludes.
The verdicts come in a study carried out for the Advertising Association by Dr Stephen Buck, a marketing research expert and a non-executive director of Taylor Nelson Sofres, the UK's biggest market information services company.
The findings were hailed by Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, the world's largest advertising group. No premium brand owner could 'ever again question the value of their advertising investment', he said.
The report follows an analysis of 52 brands in 26 leading grocery categories between 1975 and 1999. It showed that 19 of the brand leaders in 1975 remain so today and that half of these managed to increase their market share.
This is against a background of an explosion in own-label packaged grocery products. In 1975, the top four supermarket groups held 22 per cent of the market compared with almost 70 per cent today.
Yet own-labels have had little impact on grocery brand leaders, whose average market share has fallen from 34.2 per cent in 1975 to 32.6 per cent in 1999. Half the brands that retained their leading positions even managed to increase market share, despite the major inroads by own-labels into almost all product categories.
But the survey concludes that brand leadership has been sustained through relatively high levels of adspend and that brands with lower levels of advertising are likely to struggle.
It also suggests that the own-label threat to established brands has levelled off and may decline as supermarkets pursue a strategy of 'everyday low prices'.
Andrew Brown, the AA's director-general, said: 'I welcome this study and, in particular, the strong case it puts for the benefits that long-term advertising investment brings to brands.'