Profile: Local Instinct - Will Ghali, Marketing Director, Cobra Beer

Article excerpt

Since he made the switch from soft drinks to the harder stuff last summer, Will Ghali has had a busy time of it. Taking Cobra Beer beyond its Indian restaurant heartland has been an all-consuming project for the ex-PepsiCo marketer ever since his appointment as marketing director for the brand.

In a pounds 14m push aimed at persuading consumers to demand the beer in their local, agencies have been hired and fired apace. Landor Associates has been drafted in for packaging design, Initials for direct marketing and Manning Gottlieb OMD for media, all in the space of a few short months. Just about the only agency that Ghali has stuck with is Joshua G2, which has developed an pounds 8.4m ad campaign for the brand, spanning cinema, outdoor, press, digital and TV.

The campaign introduces three animated 'everyman' characters exchanging banter in a pub. Ghali says the strapline, 'Now you're talking', works both on an emotional and functional level; drinking beer in a pub is essentially a convivial activity, but Cobra is also 'less gassy than other beers, so doesn't bloat you or get in the way of conversation'.

For authenticity, the TV ads, which break in September, feature unscripted dialogue from a real-life 'blokish' threesome who were holed up together for three hours with a few suggested conversation topics and a supply of Cobra.

Ghali says he wants the activity to transform Cobra from 'ethnic, quirky and complicated' to a positioning that is 'modern, exotic and cosmopolitan'. However, he stresses that the marketing drive is not about abandoning the brand's heritage; the ethnic restaurant sector is still important, and will support its move into the mainstream.

Ghali, 38, was brought up in Egypt, but moved to England at the age of 15 when his Egyptian father died and his English mother decided to return home. He admits that swapping Cairo for the South Midlands town of Redditch in the early 80s came as something of a culture shock.

'The first couple of years were quite difficult in terms of adjusting,' he says. 'The way I coped with it was just to get my head down and work to get good grades and go to university.' He is still in contact with friends and family from Cairo, and was recently called upon to act as best man for one of them, which involved giving the traditional speech in Arabic. …