Was RB’S ad­spend re­ally not work­ing?

Wieden & Kennedy’s loss of Fin­ish and Nuro­fen high­lights ad­ver­tis­ers’ on­go­ing strug­gle to jug­gle brand-build­ing and short-term sales

Campaign UK - - NEWS - MAISIE MCCABE Act­ing UK edi­tor maisie.mccabe@hay­mar­ket.com @maisiem­c­cabe

When there was a push from chief ex­ec­u­tives and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cers to de­crease non-work­ing mar­ket­ing spend last year, the clever Richard Hunt­ing­ton of Saatchi & Saatchi wrote an elo­quent piece for Cam­paign trash­ing the strat­egy.

Yes, work­ing mar­ket­ing spend (ie the media) is the eas­i­est part of the bud­get from which to de­ter­mine a re­sult. But most of the magic – and the big­gest po­ten­tial re­turn – comes from the clever things bril­liant peo­ple come up with. Hunt­ing­ton be­lieves that every brand should be fu­elled by “a killer idea paid for by ‘non-work­ing mar­ket­ing spend’”. Slash­ing it isn’t go­ing to find your “Vor­sprung durch Tech­nik”.

Hunt­ing­ton’s column came to mind with RB’S de­ci­sion to move its Fin­ish and Nuro­fen brands out of Wieden & Kennedy and into Havas and Mccann re­spec­tively. Most of the peo­ple who com­mented on the de­ci­sion to me – both pri­vately and pub­licly – lamented the end of what looks to be, from the out­side at least, a fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship.

The Fin­ish ads chal­lenged the dish­washer cat­e­gory, show­ing that it is pos­si­ble to do stylish and thought­ful work for what might be con­sid­ered a bor­ing busi­ness. The ads brought to life the in­sight that all of life’s dif­fi­cult mo­ments end with dishes. Fin­ish spots were in­cluded in Cam­paign’s top ten TV and cin­ema ads of 2016 and 2015 – an un­heard-of feat for the brand. The first ef­fort, “Dishes”, was recog­nised at Cannes, D&AD, the Cam­paign Big Awards and the Bri­tish Ar­rows.

When Wieden & Kennedy picked up Nuro­fen in July 2015 af­ter an eight-month pitch against Mccann and in­cum­bent Havas, it seemed that the duo were go­ing to change stuffy cat­e­gories for good. Yet roll on 22 months and no ads have ma­te­ri­alised. If any­one had been pay­ing at­ten­tion, they might have guessed that some­thing was up.

As I un­der­stand it, RB hired Wieden & Kennedy to usher in change. The com­pany wanted to be­come a bea­con of cre­ativ­ity and was look­ing to do things dif­fer­ently. But not ev­ery­one at RB was on board. And some ex­ec­u­tives still wanted the ads to ex­plain why Fin­ish tablets were bet­ter than Fairy’s. In an in­ter­est­ing twist, it fell to Wieden & Kennedy to ar­gue for the data, the im­por­tance of cre­at­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion and long-term brand­build­ing, while the pro­po­nents of tra­di­tional ads were talk­ing about their gut.

Dif­fer­ences of opin­ion can be talked through. But if you’re not mov­ing an FMCG brand’s mar­ket share, those who were against the change in the first place have quite a strong ar­gu­ment. And so Fin­ish has re­turned to Havas. And Nuro­fen has moved to Mccann, which fought bloody hard for it in the pitch Wieden & Kennedy won. I’m told that in­creas­ing RB busi­ness has been a ma­jor strate­gic ob­jec­tive for Mccann in re­cent years. So well done to them.

Will Mccann and Havas cre­ate the work Wieden & Kennedy might have con­tin­ued to do? Prob­a­bly not. Could they sell more painkillers and dish­washer tablets? They might do. I’ll def­i­nitely be watch­ing.

“RB hired W&K to usher in change. It wanted to be­come a bea­con of cre­ativ­ity. But not ev­ery­one at RB was on board”

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