CLIENT OF THE WEEK: McVitie’s chocolatey ex-boffin - EMMA HALL meets the man who put penguins back in pole position for the snack

’I’ve worked in chocolate all my life,’ laughs Mark Horgan, the joint marketing director of McVitie’s.

’I’ve worked in chocolate all my life,’ laughs Mark Horgan, the

joint marketing director of McVitie’s.

Horgan is the man responsible for putting the penguins back into

Penguin. He persuaded Gerry Moira, the executive creative director of

Publicis and author of the original ’pick up a Penguin’ ads, to drop the

celebrity endorsements of recent years.

’I wanted to reinvent the warmth of the brand and bring back the

penguins,’ Horgan explains. ’Public expectation has moved on, so we gave

the penguins some attitude and put them in modern environments like the

kitchen and a bus.’

It took Horgan a while to find his chocolatey vocation. He shut himself

in a lab for four years at Strathclyde University and emerged in 1987

with a first class degree in maths and physics. Luckily, he got a job as

a graduate trainee physicist at Rowntree’s head offices in York. Within

a year, Roger Partington, now the marketing director of Safeway but who

was then at Rowntree, saw through Horgan’s physics boffin exterior and

took him under his wing.

Horgan began with Black Magic and Dairy Box. He moved on to Quality

Street before joining Mars in 1993. ’I learned the basics at Rowntree

and I put them into practice at Mars,’ he says. Travelling across

Europe, sometimes four days a week, suited Horgan well. ’I miss the

travel,’ he says. ’The industry is moving towards global marketing and

in 20 years’ time everybody will be doing it.’

Horgan’s jet-setting days ended when he and his wife decided to start a

family. He joined McVitie’s in 1996 and the joyful parent replaced the

frequent flyer when Benjamin arrived 20 months ago. Spare time is now

spent playing with him instead of playing football.

Horgan still faces plenty of professional challenges at McVitie’s. He

wants to turn Penguin into an impulse confectionery purchase to match

its big UK rival, Kit Kat. That should keep him surrounded with

chocolate for a while - ’I do eat my fair share,’ he admits.

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