Cinzano and Campari boogie back into the limelight

Adverts are heading back on to our screens for drinks which, because their heyday was the Seventies, are as cool as an Yves Saint Laurent trouser suit and blue eye-shadow. Which, says Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, is pretty cool.

The Seventies revival films Boogie Nights and The Ice Storm portray the glitter decade as all wife-swapping and porn films. But when the sex was finished in the Seventies the beautiful people turned to a glass of Cinzano or Campari. Now to accompany the style revival from hell, they are both coming back to our TV screens.

Both drinks are indelibly associated with the decade when Malcolm Macdonald was "super" and Lena Zavaroni was entertainment, thanks to advertising campaigns that have printed themselves on the consciousness of anyone over the age of 30. For many Campari will always be associated with cockney actress Lorraine Chase and Luton Airport while Cinzano will forever be spilling over Joan Collins in her double act with Leonard Rossiter. A double act which actually sustained the brand into the Eighties.

But as fashions changed both drinks saw their drinkers move onto "sophisticated" new drinks such as Malibu and Coke so now both drinks have changed advertising agencies in preparation for their first big ad campaigns in years.

Last week the London agency Mellors Reay & Partners won the pounds 2.5m account for Campari after a new distributor decided to try to ditch the brand's downmarket image once and for all.

"It's a case of everyone remembers the ad but no one drinks the drink," says Carol Reay, of Mellors Reay. "We're not ashamed of the Lorraine Chase ads, but to be honest they were always a bit of a misfit.

It is quite a bitter drink with a taste which needs to be acquired, its not a sweet, downmarket Babycham-type drink which is what the ad made people think. The Lorraine Chase ads sold a lot of Campari initially, but there wasn't a lot of repeat purchases." Ms Reay admits that because of the strength of the Luton Airport ads the agency has got "a really, really big fence to get over" before it can reposition the drink as anything other than the epitome of naff.

Once, when Demis Roussos was on the music centre and Campari was in your mirror-backed cocktail cabinet the drink sold millions of bottles a year. Recently it has grown back to 500,000 bottles a year based entirely on word of mouth. Now its new distributors hope to increase that by pitching the drink to upmarket over-thirties with a taste for wine.

Lorraine Chase's Luton Airport adverts were made by the agency J Walter Thompson which won the Cinzano account late last year. The advertising agency and Cinzano's distributors plan to take the fortified wine back on to British television this year so it can start to compete with Martini, which has been trying to present itself for the last two years as the beautiful people's drink again.

It is one of the great ironies of advertising that few people ever knew the difference between Martini and Cinzano and when the Collins and Rossiter adverts were aired sales of rival Martini would inadvertently shoot up.