Can you fool all the consumers all of the time? It's a question that two of the country's most famous advertisers will be asking themselves as they contemplate relaunches of tarnished brands. While the national media has spent the last week speculating on the potential for recovery of the much-loved Cadbury brand from its salmonella disaster, the marketing press has suggested that Dasani is to be resurrected by Coca-Cola.
For those of you with short memories, Dasani is the bottled water brand launched in the UK in 2004 which was withdrawn shortly afterwards following revelations that the content was not much more than dressed-up tap water from the mains supply at Coke's Sidcup factory.
Trouble is, Dasani has become a huge success in the United States and Canada, where it is more ubiquitous than PepsiCo's Aquafina. What's more, global bottled water sales will surpass carbonated drinks sales for the first time in 2007. So, it is inevitable that Coke should be looking to try again in this fast-growing sector.
If it were to revive Dasani it would take a conservative estimate of some £10 million worth of advertising to do so. Coke spent £7 million on the original launch. It will have to fork out considerably more to persuade the British public that Dasani 2.0 is an entirely different proposition. Of course, the consumers themselves won't remember by themselves, but the great British press won't less us forget.
Much as the Coke ethos is to have the same brand worldwide, it will probably have to come up with a new name for its water for the UK. This is entirely the opposite situation to Cadbury.
I have no doubt at all that Cadbury can fully recover from its salmonella fiasco. The company said the episode has cost it £20 million, But of course, that's not really true. This was the figure for the first period in which the negative publicity took place. It doesn't take into account the mid-term damage to sales and the lasting damage to brand image.
The latter can be mitigated - at a price. Cadbury is a brand that's much loved - rightly or wrongly - by the British public. It is not that its basic premise was flawed like Dasani's. We have grown up with Dairy Milk and other Cadbury brands, and have had little reason to complain before - well, until we have our first taste of Belgian or French chocolate, and realise what we have been missing out on.
Yes, Cadbury can be accused of a wide range of sins from arrogance to naivety, but with a little TLC and approximately £20 million of advertising, its reputation can be restored. At heart we like a) the products and b) the company's brand. Cadbury has quite cleverly worked on both. It will, for instance, renew its sponsorship of Coronation Street.
If it has learnt from its mistakes it will also do well to rely on a major and longer-term public relations initiative aimed at restoring the trust once synonymous with the brand. A trust brand is a wonderful positioning to have. Dasani never had it, and never will. By contrast, Cadbury should be back, and just as strong as before.
* WHY DO marketers get rid of some of their most prized assets? This week alone comes news that Sugar Puffs is bringing back the Honey Monster, the late John Webster's unforgettable creation that most famously told comic Henry McGee to "tell 'em about the honey, mummy". Meanwhile Schweppes is returning to television advertising after a break of seven years. Its new line? "Sch... you know how" a play on its memorable "Sch... you know who" campaigns. Pausing to note that the FT is once again "no FT, no comment", you have to wonder at the recklessness with which marketers throw away that which has made their brand special in the first place.
* THE DISPUTE between McCann-Erickson and Euro RSCG regarding the interpretation of controversial new employment laws is a fight waiting to happen. This column predicted as much back in the spring when I wrote about the introduction of TUPE (Transfer of Undertaking: Protection of Employment) legislation. Applied to the advertising industry this meant that an ad agency winning an account had a duty to offer jobs to staff at the losing agency if those staff worked "wholly or predominantly" on the individual account. McCann is apparently telling staff they have a right to a job at Euro - thus saving the former potential redundancy payments. Euro, which won the Reckitt Benckiser account from McCann last month, is trying to argue that TUPE doesn't apply to it in this case. For once, it's not just the lawyers who will want the case to go to court. The ad industry really needs a precedent to be established in this area. If not, it could become more expensive to win an account than lose it!
* IN THE week that Peter Buchanan, the likeable deputy chief executive of the Central Office of Information (COI), paid tribute to the number of creative awards the Government's anti-smoking campaign had won already this year, the COI parted company with the agency that had held the account for 22 years. Anti-smoking was core to the values of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. The agency would never take on a cigarette account, even when it was legal to do so. It has created many famous anti-smoking ads over the years, and the Government has unquestionably succeeded in making smoking less socially acceptable among young people. Now the Department of Health apparently wants a more integrated approach to its advertising - which, if you ask me, is a strange reason to dump the very integrated AMV group in favour of two distinct agencies MCBD (otherwise know as Abbott Mead Lite) and Farm.
* LAST WEEK, the BBC abandoned all pretence of impartial coverage with one of the more extraordinary news reports of late. On the BBC 10 O'Clock News on Wednesday night Robert Peston, the business editor, launched into a report about Charles Allen's (possible) departure from ITV. This gave Peston a chance to run through ITV's falling viewing figures. So far, so just-about-of-interest to a tiny minority of viewers. But then Peston started to explain ITV's Contract Rights Renewal policy to a bewildered audience. If many media buyers find CRR mystifying, Lord knows what the average punter made of it. ITV often sounds like King Canute trying to push back the tides of change as it bleats about the lack of a level playing field in its fight with the Beeb. In this case, it is difficult not to sympathise with Allen. Next week: Newsnight unravels the evil at the heart of Station Average Price!
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the campaigns and the slogans that you would like to see brought back
Hatfield's Best In Show: Pipex
I am not sure if this is my best, or worst, in show. Is it good, or is it so bad that it's good? What it does have is stand-out. "I'm David Hasselhof, king of the internet! Powered by Pipex!" As lines go, it's right up there with Ronseal's "Does exactly what it says on the tin" for me - that is, if you accept the curious premise behind the ad. Allegedly, "the Hoff" is the biggest star on the internet in the world - or some such spurious factoid.
Now, I don't know how they know this. I don't even know who "they" are. I did know he was huge in Germany, and was involved in a fracas at Wimbledon. But, was that arranged for publicity value by Pipex too? It makes me worry about our obsession with the internet, and its power. It's a far scarier threat than junk food ads.
However, I am sure it will make us all feel a tiny bit better at Craven Cottage this season that Fulham FC is sponsored by a brand that is advertised on television. Is that a terribly old-fashioned notion?