LIVE ISSUE/NESCAFE: Publicis falls foul of Nestle’s global Nescafe push - The agencies might have changed but the creative idea won’t

Last week, Nestle stripped its roster agency, Publicis, of its entire global Nescafe business and appointed the rival roster shop, McCann-Erickson, to implement phase two of its international branding campaign.

Last week, Nestle stripped its roster agency, Publicis, of its

entire global Nescafe business and appointed the rival roster shop,

McCann-Erickson, to implement phase two of its international branding


The move marks yet another change of direction in the coffee giant’s

advertising strategy.

Last year, McCanns was shunned when Nestle appointed Publicis to the

first phase of the campaign, dubbed ’open up’. The campaign ran in 30

different markets worldwide but was greeted with a lukewarm reception

from the UK advertising industry.

The work, which featured people from all over the world enjoying a cup

of the coffee, was largely viewed as cliched and sentimental. It is a

vehicle for promoting all of Nestle’s coffee brands, which include Gold

Blend, Blend 37, Alta Rica and Cap Colombie.

Before that, Nestle took the decision to axe its local Nescafe Gold

Blend advertising, even though the campaign had been popular in the UK

and was subsequently adapted for other markets around the world,

including the US, Chile and France.

Now the ’open up’ campaign has not only been moved to McCanns but

extended to air in 110 markets worldwide. So, if phase one of the

campaign was so successful, why change the agency? And if it wasn’t, why

extend it to cover so many more territories?

’Phase one of the campaign had been running for about a year when we

called the review,’ David Hudson, director of communications and

corporate affairs at Nestle UK, says. ’But we felt that it was beginning

to work. Our latest business results showed an increase in the brand’s

market share. There have been some mixed reviews about the creative

content and some people regretted the loss of the highly successful Gold

Blend advertising, but that campaign had been running for years and was

becoming jaded - you always have to be looking for new ideas.’

’Nestle thought that phase one of the campaign was successful,’ Ben

Langdon, chief executive and managing director at McCanns, says. ’But it

can be improved. Publicis set the ball rolling but our proposals for

phase two were by far the best.’

Despite obvious problems with phase one, Nestle is determined to keep

the same creative idea. Hudson says: ’The work that comes out of McCanns

now will be an evolution rather than a revolution. There will be no

radical change.’

Nestle says it wants to establish Nescafe as a ’mega brand’, one that

will be recognised around the world. The company is confident that it is

taking the right approach. It spent pounds 8 million in the UK alone

last year and the spend for phase two will be considerably greater.

The sociability of drinking coffee is Nestle’s ploy to unite people

around the world and it’s a useful strategy because it allows the

company to show different races and nationalities enjoying its brand.

The question is: how do you devise a campaign that is not culturally

bound? The British may be drinking more coffee than ever but we don’t

drink it the same way as the Italians or the Americans.

’Nestle has a clear hierarchy of brands with Nescafe very much at the

top,’ a senior advertising source says. ’The decision to embark on a

global campaign of this scale is as much about making the Nestle name

global as it is about Nescafe. It’s a corporate push.’

McCanns is now charged with the task of creating a campaign that

straddles more markets than has ever been attempted with an instant

coffee brand.

The advertising will have to appeal to a very broad age group and a

massive cross-section of the population worldwide - all within very

narrow executional boundaries.

’With the dramatic change in the role of coffee in the UK in the past

five years, you will always have the pressure of balancing a global

campaign with local market needs,’ says Richard Pinder, managing

director of Ogilvy & Mather, which holds the advertising account for the

Kraft Jacobs Suchard-owned Maxwell House. ’If you are smart, you can do

it and it works for some products - but it has yet to be done with a

coffee brand.’

In 1996, pounds 725 million was spent on instant coffee in the UK, with

Nestle taking 58 per cent of value sales. It is streets ahead of the


Kraft - whose brands include Maxwell House and Kenco - came second with

22 per cent.

But at the premium and fastest growing end of the market - the ground

and roast coffee sector - things aren’t looking as healthy for


Own-label products counted for 42 per cent of sales in 1996 with no

brand labels reaching the level of domination necessary to keep them at


Nestle is under threat from many corners, not least of which is the

expansion of the UK’s cafe society. We are experiencing a revolution in

our national tastes as coffee houses multiply on the high street. We now

spend pounds 35 million a year in coffee houses - up from just pounds 4

million in 1994 - and Mintel has estimated that there is room for

another 1,500 outlets nationwide before the market is saturated.

’The coffee you find in these shops certainly isn’t Nescafe,’ one source

says, ’and that just serves to undermine the quality of Nestle’s


Opting for a huge global push, Nestle is trying to be all things to all

people and this simply is not possible with something as culturally

specific as coffee drinking habits. To underestimate the value of great

local advertising could be a very dangerous thing.’