CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/MARS - End of an era as Mars switches from D'Arcy to Grey. Strategic issues and fall in public demand finally saw Mars move, Ian Darby says

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for more than 46 years, has been replaced by Grey.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.

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