Magazine article Marketing

Can Sleepy Old Ovaltine Reawaken Our Interest?

Magazine article Marketing

Can Sleepy Old Ovaltine Reawaken Our Interest?

Article excerpt

Ovaltine is back on TV for the first time since the mid-80s. But is its new energy identity the right strategy to revitalise a tired brand? Tania Mason reports

The last time Ovaltine was advertised on TV, Rick Astley was top of the charts and Margaret Thatcher still had an iron grip on the country.

Much has changed since 1986,but the brand identity of Novartis-owned hot malt drink Ovaltine is still associated with fluffy slippers and late-night telly.

It is not as if Novartis has skimped on advertising. In the past eight years it has allocated more money to its hot drinks brands than either of its competitors, Premier Brands' Cadbury's High Light or SmithKline Beecham's Horlicks.

But most of Novartis' budget went into brand extensions: low-fat Ovaltine Light, the hot chocolate Options, and kids' milk drinks range Ovaltine Power. The core product was left to fend for itself.

Ovaltine's main rival, Horlicks, has run TV campaigns every year since 1995. Much of this work sought to pitch Horlicks as a bedtime beverage that would help drinkers to sleep soundly and awaken refreshed. Ovaltine, without doing anything to create a separate identity, has continued to be classed in this category.

But this is about to change. In June, Novartis marketing director Alistair Paton decided to drop Abbott Mead Vickers BDDO from the [pound]3m account and appoint Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, which last week unveiled a quirky newTV campaign. The four ten-second executions aim to change consumer perception of Ovaltine from a bedtime drink to a nutritious, energising refreshment.

We asked Ben Langdon, chairman and chief executive of McCann-Erickson, the creative agency that holds the Nescafe hot drinks portfolio, and Greg Delaney, founding partner at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, who works on Cadbury's chocolate drinks, how they would stir up the Ovaltine brand.


Ovaltine is a cosy drink for bedtime, cold evenings or feeling ill - a tried and trusted comfort blanket. I was therefore surprised to see the demographics for this brand are relatively flat and dominated by light users.

Therein must be an opportunity. However, I'm not sure (seeing the new ads and ready-to-drink format) that the brand's competencies are best leveraged. I can seethe attraction of moving from 'old' energy to 'new' energy (particularly given Lucozade's success), but I'm not sure if a hot-drink brand can transcend the energy market characteristics (cold, impulse, funky). …

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