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
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.
THE GARDNER FILE
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
1993 Unilever buys Klondike
1998 Promoted to the position of Birds Eye Walls’ business director
with overall responsibility for marketing