Opinion: Perspective - Kit Kat's slogan seems like change for the sake of it

Quite how much responsibility Nestle Rowntree's managing director, Chris White, will take for the decision to drop the iconic "Have a break, have a Kit Kat" slogan could well depend on how successful the change proves to be.

But it's impossible to consider the overhaul outside the context of White's comments earlier this year. I doubt that anyone who works on Nestle business will need reminding. But, for the record, White lambasted Nestle's advertising with all the subtlety and media sensitivity of an FA press officer. "I don't like any of the ads," he told Campaign. "They are focused on awards and not on selling more product to more people at higher prices."

The notion that Kit Kat ads are carefully conceived with a trip up the red carpet to the awards podium in mind is a nonsense to anyone with a creative sensibility. But Kit Kat's ads didn't prevent a 9 per cent drop in sales of the brand last year; White's ham-fistedness was a distraction from the underlying fact that in 2003 Kit Kat lost its status as the country's favourite confectionery brand to Dairy Milk. That a staggering 47 Kit Kats are still eaten every minute is testament to the familiarity, availability and the reliable moreishness of the product as much as the communications strategy.

But for any ad slogan to endure for almost half a century is a triumph against fashion, against egos and against the inevitable desire for a new marketing or creative chief to mark their arrival with dramatic change (see page 18). And, of course, it reflects a genuine respect for the simplicity and brilliance of the copywriter's art.

Perhaps the Kit Kat line has become wallpaper, a comfortably familiar backdrop for each new advertising execution rather than an arresting, brand-defining differentiator. White has been characteristically blunt: "It doesn't work any more."

The ad strategy's triumph at last year's APG and Campaign Media Awards, though not obviously translated into a sales upswing, underscored the powerful and long-running associations between Kit Kat and taking a break from the pressure of work for a moment of (cheap and easy) indulgence. The new strapline is clearly an attempt to build on this successful heritage, but is hardly a match for its 47-year-old predecessor. "Make the most of your break," the new, inelegant slogan, to be launched in a campaign by J. Walter Thompson next month, urges.

And more than likely someone had a keen eye on the PR potential of dumping a much-loved line. In this particular case, PR opportunities provide a more persuasive rationale for the launch of "Make the most of your break" than the notion that the new slogan might actually be better than the old. Anyway, the PR people were right. The media has this week been full of laments on the demise of "Have a break" ... though there have been plenty of unflattering comments on its replacement.

So we're all talking about Kit Kat again. But White does not quite seem to have the courage of his convictions. "Have a break" could be revived in a few years time, "when we have re-established the relevance of the brand", he has said. Whatever happens, White's early criticisms of Nestle advertising meant high-profile change was inevitable, propelled - it seems - by a desire for drama and the need to be seen to take action. Of course, without seeing the whole campaign, any criticism is qualified, but I wonder if the new work will prove to be exactly what you get when you back your agency into a corner?