MEDIA: Strategy of the Week: Lipton Ice Tea - Lipton is gambling on youth to overcome mistrust of Ice Tea, Rachel Gardner writes

After a decade's absence, Lipton Ice Tea has returned to television advertising with a media strategy built around the idea: "Don't knock it until you've tried it."

This is the fourth time Lipton has been launched in the UK, and the company hopes to finally convince the British consumer to embrace drinking cold tea by simply getting them to try it.

It is a brave and honest plan and the media approach has been selected accordingly, with a large proportion of the budget being spent on an extensive sampling programme to support the launch of the television and cinema spots by J.Walter Thompson.

"The media and creative strategy was to address taste and trial," the JWT planner Joanna Bartholomeou says. "We wanted to make the product appealing to our target audience and get them to overcome how it looks.

"That is why we have spent a lot of the budget on sampling (through its PR company Cake and RPM3). Also, research shows that about 40 per cent of people buy it again once they have been persuaded to try it."

Visibility is an important strand in the Lipton strategy, and the summer taste tests will target more than 30 cities and towns across the country in a bid to win more converts.

In addition, Lipton's owner - Unilever Bestfoods - has developed a two-year advertising relationship with MTV. This year, Lipton secured sponsorship of the Isle of MTV music event, which was negotiated by JWT, while the product is also backing the broadcaster's flagship rock concert - MTV Winterjam 2003 - which will be broadcast across all of MTV's European stations.

The Homelands 2003 dance festival in Hampshire last month was also identified as a suitable platform for Lipton to build its credentials among a new target audience of 18- to 30-year-olds. The brand is already popular with a young audience in markets including the US, Portugal and Belgium.

Although Lipton is nowhere near as big a spender as other companies in the soft drinks market, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, it has nearly doubled its spend in Britain since last year's campaign. Its above-the-line spend last year was £1.4 million.

But Bartholomeou admits persuading people to drink ice tea in the UK has not been easy.

"We have had problems on all fronts," she says. "People here drink tea hot so to give it to them cold is almost unpalatable, especially when it looks like it does.

"Previously Lipton had been positioned as a cool and stylish product. But this time we decided to embrace the issue that it does not look very appetising and comes in garish packaging."

People are urged to overcome their aversion in the 30-second television ad, which broke on 6 June. Media planning and buying is by Initiative Media.

The campaign will be mainly focused on Channel 4, around typically entertainment-based programmes that attract young viewers.

Included in the schedule are Jackass II, Dirty Sanchez and Surviving Extremes.

A longer, 40-second version of the ad has been produced for cinemas and will run before some of the summer's hottest releases including The Matrix Reloaded, X-Men 2 The Italian Job and Charlie's Angels Full Throttle.

"We wanted to reach the younger audience in their own environment," Paula Wootton, the media director for Unilever Bestfoods at Initiative Media, says. "Fortunately, there is a great pick of films breaking this summer, which should help us hit our target of reaching more than one million young people. Lipton's history is that they have not got the base as a brand here in the UK as they have in other countries."

Lipton had already built up a customer base with poster and direct marketing campaigns over the past three years. This time round it has steered away from outdoor advertising, choosing to step up its profile by focusing instead on television, cinema and sampling.

Wootton concludes: "British people tend to stick to their hot beverages, but we're hoping to change that with this big TV and cinema push to establish Lipton.

"This campaign is a significant step up for us and has a much bigger feel to it."