CLOSE-UP: ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK/BIRDS EYE WALLS - Walls embraces Unilever’s new creative approach. The frozen foods giant is revamping its advertising, Francesca Newland writes

What’s this? A funny ad for Carte d’Or. Isn’t that the domain of meaningless, badly lip-synched pan-European executions?

What’s this? A funny ad for Carte d’Or. Isn’t that the domain of

meaningless, badly lip-synched pan-European executions?

Sharon Gardner, the Kansas-born business and marketing director of Birds

Eye Walls, says it’s about positioning the brand as fun rather than


’We wanted to put it in more casual clothes, to give it freshness,’ she


In Europe, the brand is more established than it is in the UK, so

Gardner has commissioned the product’s first UK-specific campaign. The

brief is to encourage ice-cream eaters to consume Carte d’Or in social


’We want the brand to go more mainstream. Historically, it has had a

luxury message,’ Gardner says.

The campaign also highlights Unilever’s promised promotion of more

creative advertising to the forefront of its marketing strategy. The

merger of Unilever’s main agency, Ammirati Puris Lintas, with the more

creatively renowned Lowe Howard-Spink should help this strategy


The Carte d’Or execution is the first major UK work for Unilever by the

merged agency. Indeed, it could be said to be indicative of the approach

we can expect from most of Unilever’s future advertising.

However, the diplomatic Gardner says: ’From my perspective, I don’t feel

much impact from the merger. I can’t tell which people working on the

campaign were originally from Lowes and which were from Lintas. It’s

seamless from our point of view. There is energy coming out of their


Gardner did seem, though, to get more than her fair share of attention

on the brief. According to Gardner, the creative work was overseen by

the network’s global creative chief, Adrian Holmes.

Unilever has also promised to diversify its massive spend away from

television. Gardner says, however, that ’the biggest part of our budget

is still TV’. She adds that in the case of the impulse (lolly) brands,

poster executions are very important as they reach people when they are

out and about. Despite Unilever’s keeness to embrace new media, Gardner

is not quite prepared to take the leap into the interactive abyss,

although she admits that it is ’on the horizon’ for ice-cream.

The rival ice-cream manufacturer Nestle has just launched an interactive

initiative - co-ordinated by J. Walter Thompson and OgilvyOne - for its

new Maxibon ice-cream bar.

Gardner believes that the interactive world is still developing so

quickly that it is impossible for anyone to properly comprehend, let

alone harness, the medium. She regards any action at the moment as


New media aside, Carte d’Or’s future is secure. The product has been

designated a ’power brand’ under Unilever’s recent strategy, which

involves focusing increased marketing attention on a few key global

products rather than spreading it thinly over the entire portfolio.

We will see pounds 2.8 million spent on the new UK campaign in less than

three months. Magnum, another ’power brand’, is understood to have had

its 2000 spend tripled.

The strategy sounds the death knell for brands such as Gino Ginelli but

will push Carte d’Or, Magnum, Solero, Cornetto, Vienetta and the family

fun Walls portfolio (including Twister, Mini Milk and Calippo) to the

front of consumers’ minds.

Ice-cream is an important earner for Unilever. It is one of the seven

global product categories that the company has earmarked for growth. It

accounts for about 11 per cent of the company’s pounds 34 billion

turnover and Magnum, Solero and Cornetto are sold in 85 countries.

The key challenge now facing Gardner is maintaining Walls’ dominant

market position in the face of legal curbs installed last summer

following the recommendations of the Competition Commission. An

incredible 19 of the 20 best-selling lollies are branded Walls.

According to Mintel, Walls has an estimated 69 per cent of the impulse

market by value. Its nearest competitor, Nestle, has a comparatively

meagre 10.5 per cent, with Mars coming in third at 9 per cent.

However, the new laws in the UK mean Walls must share its loaned

freezers with other makers and can no longer enter exclusivity deals

with outlets.

Such recommendations mean that Gardner’s marketing strategy is going to

have to work much harder than it has had to in previous years.

She says: ’We will have to keep spending and supporting the products and

focus on the big ones. New products can be used to create


The company introduced Magnum Double, which brought a fifth variant to

the Magnum range, last year. Solero Summer and Solero Shots are further

examples of the stream of new product launches.

Gardner says: ’People want our ice-creams so it’s important to get them

to where people want them. We have to have quick response distribution

to make sure that the ice-creams are in the cabinets when the sun


Gardner doesn’t just face competition from other ice-cream brands - all

other puddings, including fruit and yogurts, are competitors too. This

is doubly so now that a healthy diet is in vogue.

Gardner says she does not intend to present ice-cream as a healthy,

natural option - the strategy that Anchor butter has chosen. She

explains: ’Without a doubt there is movement towards health in the diet,

but people want something that tastes great and is indulgent.’

The straight-talking, longserving Gardner fits the Unilever mould. She

has been with the company, working on ice-cream, since it bought the US

ice-cream maker Klondike in 1993. She had been with Klondike for five


Her US experience should pay off - marketers in the States (helped by

the weather) have persuaded the population to consume roughly four times

as much ice-cream as UK consumers.


1980    Works in the sales and marketing divisions of Frito Lay, a

        subsidiary of PepsiCo

1986    Joins marketing team of Tropicana

1987    Moves to Klondike, the marketer of America’s number-one-selling

        ice-cream bar

1993    Unilever buys Klondike

1998    Promoted to the position of Birds Eye Walls’ business director

        with overall responsibility for marketing

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