The Mars Bar is one of the truly iconic brands. Its hold on the
minds and pockets of UK consumers has been powerful since its launch in
the UK in 1932 and, until recently, the cost of 1,000 Mars Bars was used
by economists as a key indicator of inflation.
However, times have changed. Competition from other confectionery
products and the falling demand from consumers for sweet, sugary snacks
has put Mars on the back foot. Now D'Arcy, Mars Bar's advertising agency
for more than 46 years, has been replaced by Grey.
A year ago things were looking rosy for D'Arcy. The agency had
introduced new work using the strapline "Every day should be this good",
which originated from D'Arcy New York, and in the UK its "Mars can make
your dreams come true" promotion had gone down well, introducing a new
emotional and aspirational edge to Mars' UK advertising. However, things
began to go wrong.
Reports late last year indicate that D'Arcy was briefed by Mars to
create a pan-European campaign, a sign that it had got its relationship
back on track with Mars, having lost the global Twix account to Grey a
few months before. Advertising along the lines of Budweiser's "whassup?"
work was discussed. However, the ad never ran. By May, Mars had called a
review of the account, following a meeting of senior global executives
in the United States. Although neither Mars nor D'Arcy will talk about
the reasons for the review, apart from a bland statement from Mars
saying that Grey's task is to "reignite" the brand, there are known to
have been strategic differences.
Mars didn't rate D'Arcy's ideas but the shift of the account to Grey,
which has delivered unremarkable creative on Twix since winning the
business, either leaves questions over Mars' ability to identify good
work, or leads to the conclusion that creative standards were not an
issue behind the move. One former D'Arcy executive says that the
relationship with Mars was always fraught because of Mars' deliberate
strategy of using agencies as "adversaries" and the close involvement of
the Mars family. "There was tension in the relationship," he says. "The
whole Mars philosophy led to huge mood swings. You always felt there was
a review coming from somewhere and it was not an account people had a
passion for. It was like basic training in the Army."
The Mars Bar was launched in the UK by Forrest Mars, who established a
factory in Slough to gain independence from Mars in the US, which was
created by his father, Frank, in 1923. Mars was launched with the less
than inspiring strapline "Chocolate to sustain, glucose to energise,
milk to nourish", which featured on press advertising.
The success of the Mars Bar product was generated in the post-war years
with its availability as a treat during rationing. After the
restrictions were lifted, D'Arcy began its relationship with Mars with
the introduction of cinema and TV commercials from 1955.
Its early work used the line "Mars is marvellous" and built on the
product enjoyment of the creamy centre and full cream chocolate. This
was backed by a celebrity endorsements starring Bob Monkhouse and Petula
Clark, using the line "Stars love Mars".
This kind of fun, naive activity continued until late 1969, when the
famous "A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play" line was
The line was a more sophisticated way of highlighting the ingredients of
Mars that would supposedly sustain, energise and nourish. Executions
showed the role that the product played in everyday lives.
After producing its first colour ad for Mars Bar in 1969, D'Arcy
continued the "Mars a day" work throughout the 70s using testimonials
from people in different walks of life. Ads in the mid-80s continued to
use the strapline but centred around Mars' sponsorship of the London
Marathon. The product's association with sport was intensified in the
early 90s when Danny Baker, whose overweight appearance made him an odd
selection, became the brand spokesman. He starred in activity that
linked Mars Bar to sporting events such as the Olympics.
By the early 90s, Mars was questioned over its various health claims for
the product in the advertising. In 1993 the pressure group Action and
Information on Sugars complained to the Independent Television
Commission, which eventually decided in Mars' favour. However, consumers
were no longer convinced that Mars Bars added to their diet.
As a result, in 1996, D'Arcy dropped the 37-year-old "Work, rest and
play" line, to be replaced with the "Mars make it happen" campaign which
was, in turn, replaced by the "Must be Mars" executions ("Indian" and
"lip sofa") that sought to inject a feel-good factor into the brand.
Although Mars is still the second-best selling countline in the UK (Kit
Kat is number one), its sales face severe pressure from changes in
people's eating habits and increased competition. This pressure was too
much for the D'Arcy/Mars relationship.