This was the year millennium fever took hold of consumers and the
marketing community alike. Whether it was the Dome and its sponsorship
exploits, or the potential damage wreaked by the computer bug, 1998 was
a year spent looking forward.
The birth of digital television did much to encourage this. Perhaps the
most important of a raft of launches to hit us this year, the digital
future promises to take marketers and advertisers into an as yet
untapped world of interactive marketing and one-to-one customer
The World Cup proved to be the marketing event of the year, whipping
advertisers into a frenzy of activity. Michael Owen came home a hero and
David Beckham a villain when his petulance ensured England failed to
make it to the semi-finals. However, the sporting event once again
proved itself as a vehicle for some of the most effective, big-budget
marketing and sponsorship to be seen.
Economically the year began with ripples of the Asian financial crisis
reaching our shores. In January Samsung dissolved its 17-strong
marketing department in the UK. And the year has ended with gloomy
predictions of the UK economy heading toward full-blown recession.
It was a good year for ...
Procter & Gamble
It may have been criticised for its high-sugar, low-juice content, but
Sunny Delight took the market by storm in April. With a pounds 9m
marketing budget and ads created by Saatchi & Saatchi, in true P&G style
there was no escaping the drink dominating the chiller cabinets. By June
it was outselling Coca-Cola and Pepsi and featured as the highest placed
new brand in Marketing’s Biggest Brands survey.
P&G again proved its might with Ace bleach, launched in February 1997,
boosting one of the fastest-growing new FMCG sectors: pre-wash
The company may have shown the first signs of recession jitters toward
the end of the year, with rumours of requests for its agencies to cut
costs, but it is still in a league of its own.
Since its launch in 1995 PlayStation has left Nintendo and Sega far
But this year saw it go to greater heights, with a marketing strategy
aimed at taking the consoles into the mass market and a retail price set
below pounds 100.
While TBWA GGT Simons Palmer’s pounds 9m pan-European ad campaign
designed to broaden the user base was well received, there can be no
denying the influence of one of its exclusive games. With vital
statistics that puts Barbie to shame, Lara Croft continued to put Tomb
Raider II at the top of the games charts and version three of the game
is selling well for Christmas. Lara, now an icon of the late 90s,
launched her own fashion range in October.
But in a bid to push the extremes of marketing, Sony hit the ground with
a bump when its ill-advised medical results-style direct mail campaign,
created by Claydon Heeley, arrived on the door step of a cancer
Sony apologised but not before the tabloids had a field day.
Ford and Young & Rubicam
In July Young & Rubicam snatched Ford’s European ad account for its
Fiesta and Ka models from Ogilvy & Mather, only a week after the agency
also scooped the pounds 37m Focus account. This was the icing on the
cake for Y&R, which also secured the entire pounds 154m Danone business
Meanwhile, 1998 was the year Ford forced the car-buying public to think
again. Although Ka had detractors, its design was innovative, while
Puma, with help from Steve McQueen, shifted the boring family saloon
manufacturer into the sexy sports car arena. Focus - the Escort
replacement - won Car of the Year in November.
The frozen-food supermarket has done much this year to improve its
In April it announced its home-shopping service via a link-up with
BSkyB, which made it the first food retailer to launch a nationwide
Malcolm Walker, co-founder and chairman, also carried off a number of
environmental PR coups with its stance against genetically-modified
foods and ozone-depleting refrigerators.
Its testing of the convenience format, Iceland Extra, and the
appointment of HHCL & Partners to handle its pounds 10m ad account, all
suggest it will continue to irritate the big boys next year. Its last
full-year results showed like-for-like sales were up 4.4% and pre-tax
profits were pounds 50.2m.
One of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy, the likes of EasyJet,
RyanAir and Debonair faced a new rival. In February British Airways
launched its low-cost airline, Go, prompting EasyJet to take it to the
Later in the year, EasyJet revealed it was to open internet cafes, to be
headed by marketing director Tony Anderson.
1998 proved to be one of the best new business years in Leo Burnett’s
history - most of it coming in October. It was appointed worldwide
agency for Heinz sauce brands, clinched P&G’s pounds 150m UK TV buying
account and won the pounds 44m relaunch of P&G’s Vidal Sassoon range.
Just a shame about The Express.
Jon Claydon and Mark Heeley
Below-the-line shop Claydon Heeley was bought by Omnicom in March,
making millionaires of Jon Claydon, Mark Heeley, Edward Mason and Leo
It was a bad year for ...
Our nation of pet lovers managed to log over 200 complaints in two days
when the jeans giant’s Kevin the Hamster ad went on air, making it the
most complained about ad of all time. It was part of a European branding
campaign, launched by its UK marketing director Amanda Le Roux in
In October Le Roux was put in charge of brand extensions across Europe,
Middle East and Africa after Levi’s axed the UK marketing director
As fashion trends shifted, Levi’s sales fell by almost 8%. It wasn’t
alone, as administrators were called in at Falmers in October.
It may have promised much when it launched in May 1996 but Ionica failed
to convince the consumer that radio wave telephony and houses adorned
with yet more receivers was the future of telecoms. In November the
administrators were called in and 600 staff made redundant.
Marks & Spencer
In November it announced its first drop in profits since 1991. Chairman
Sir Richard Greenbury blamed a consumer slump for a 23% fall in
half-year profits that wiped over pounds 1bn off its stock market value.
It put off plans to expand in the Far East.
A shift in advertising style, featuring John Cleese, backfired after
staff complained. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO had to re-edit one ad.
Despite its focus on value, Sainsbury’s is one of the big supermarkets
being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading for their buying
In October Dino Adriano, chief executive, warned the City of poor
trading conditions and sales growth.
The agency lost the pounds 110m BT account, pounds 18m Somerfield/Kwik
Save business and pounds 30m Lloyds TSB business, resulting in a major
cost-cutting restructure in October. Four board directors were asked to
leave, and 25 other positions were axed. The Negotiation Centre was
folded into the main agency.
Its attempts to educate the UK consumer about the benefits of
genetically modified (GM) food, through a Bartle Bogle Hegarty created
ad campaign, backfired when Prince Charles became an opponent. Food
retailers, with the exception of Iceland, adopted a ’wait and see’
attitude although all wanted clear labelling. By November its own
commissioned report painted a bleak picture, showing an ongoing collapse
of public support for biotechnology and GM foods.
Although it was generally a quiet year on the tobacco front while the
government worked out the details of the European ban on tobacco
promotion, BAT hit problems with its Formula 1 sponsorship. In October
it discovered that despite shelling out pounds 300m in team sponsorship,
it was banned from putting different cigarette brands on each of its
Was 1998 the year the Branson bubble burst? Passengers on Virgin trains
might agree. Late services and a bizarre class seating policy resulted
in endless headlines berating the operator. There have also been profits
warnings from Virgin Express airline and Virgin’s clothing and cosmetics
operations. While it may have redesigned its Cola, Virgin has yet to
make a serious impact on Coca-Cola and Pepsi. k
SCORING IN THE WORLD CUP
This was the highlight of the sporting year, with 12 global FIFA
sponsors ensuring their pounds 20m investment reaped the maximum
Although one of the 12, Anheuser-Busch, had to sell on its perimeter
advertising to Casio when it failed to persuade the French government to
relax Loi Evin, its alcohol ad ban.
Prior to kick off in May, McDonald’s signed Alan Shearer, the England
captain, for its World Cup advertising campaign, by Leo Burnett. It went
on to be voted the favourite World Cup ad in Marketing’s survey.
Vauxhall paid an additional pounds 4m to be ITV’s broadcast sponsor but
Lowe Howard-Spink’s bumper ads were voted the most irritating in the
England’s match against Romania on June 22 attracted 21.6 million
viewers, the largest ITV audience for more than ten years - and viewing
in pubs may have added up to 15 million more.
Brazil’s poor performance in the final against France, with a lacklustre
Ronaldo on the pitch, caused rumblings about how much influence his
sponsor Nike had on team selection.
But England’s golden boy, Michael Owen, started to reap his own rewards
in September when he signed a deal with Eidos to produce Michael Owen’s
World League Soccer ’99 video game.
OUT WITH THE OLD
- In February Unilever made its white-haired old Captain Birds Eye walk
the plank after 30 years of sea-faring to bring in a younger sexier
model, supported by a pounds 50m global ad campaign through Ammirati
- Ad agency Leagas Shafron Davis was no more when it was forced into
administrative receivership in March.
- Despite grumbling from politicians and complaints from the public, the
Independent Television Commission accepted ITV’s request to ditch News
- Papa looked on as Nicole changed her mind at the last minute and ran
off with Bob Mortimer rather than Vic Reeves in the final ad featuring
the Renault Clio single parent family.
- More domestic strife occurred in June when Nestle killed off its
11-year-old Gold Blend couple.
- Findus foods bit the dust as Nestle gave up on the brand to
concentrate on Crosse & Blackwell instead.
- Ginger Spice quit the Spice Girls to reinvent herself as Geri
Halliwell, UN ambassador for goodwill no less. Watch out for Geri next
- Good-bye to the Coca-Cola Cup, hello to the Worthington’s Cup, in a
deal that cost the brewer pounds 23m over five years.
- Despite reincarnations, The European folded after almost eight
ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES
Ian Milligan, Kellogg’s UK head of new product development leaves to
become marketing director of Camelot.
Jan Hall leaves Coca-Cola in the UK to become global brand director for
Diet Coke based in Atlanta. PepsiCo marketer Todd Martin is appointed
global marketing director for Allied Domecq.
Helen Burt, Cable & Wireless Communications’ marketing director,
Jim Hytner joins Channel 5. Joe Ennen takes over from Mark Sims as
Kellogg’s top marketer.
Stephen Vowles is appointed as retail marketing director for Thomas
Cook. Peter Stratton joins Eurotunnel as its new marketing director.
Cellnet appoints new marketing director Kent Thexton.
Dominic Owens leaves BT as it merges its business and consumer units,
and Cellnet’s Tim Evans is made head of the new unit. By September Owens
has set up his own media consultancy. Orange marketing director, Robert
Fallow, leaves with no job to go to.
Cereal Partners appoints Dez Timmiss as its top marketer. Heinz appoints
Eric Salamon as its European marketing director.
Simon Esberger leaves Cellnet - he joined as marketing director but was
made commercial development director in June. P&G hair care marketing
director, Andrew Harrison, joins Coca-Cola as marketing director.
John Prior is poached from Burger King to be KFC’s marketing
Martin Glenn, Walkers Snack Foods UK vice-president of marketing is
promoted to president and chief executive officer.
John Derkach, marketing director of Whitbread Beer Company, joins
Beefeater restaurants as managing director. Sega appoints MTV head of
marketing, Giles Thomas as marketing director to spearhead the launch of
Gary Haigh replaces Julian Spooner as Guinness marketing director. Simon
MacDonald, Bass’s most senior marketer, leaves to join Citibank
Ford’s most senior European marketer, Phillipe Mellier, resigns to join
- In October SkyDigital hit the market, followed by ONdigital in
Between them they will spend around pounds 150m marketing their services
in 1999. ITV got a sister channel when ITV2 joined the digital
- Sunny Delight was the ’great stuff kids go for’, according to Saatchis
launch campaign in April, and judging by the sales it seems to be
- BA’s Go hit the skies in April, much to the annoyance of EasyJet.
- Lever put pounds 25m behind the May launch of Persil tablets.
- In October Prudential launched its direct financial services arm,
- Barclays tried a new approach to financial services in May with its b2
brand and a pounds 15m ad investment through Banks Hoggins O’Shea.
- The new VW Beetle came on the market in Europe with orders coming in
as fast as the car can be made.
- The Ford Focus launched in October and won Car of the Year.
- The iMac launched in August with a major ad campaign as well as huge
expectations that it can reverse Apple’s fortunes.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A DOME
Love it or loathe it, Peter Mandelson’s favourite building was the topic
of much debate this year. At the start of the year The New Millennium
Experience Company gave Martin Lambie-Nairn a seat on the board with a
On the way to reaching the target of pounds 150m worth of sponsorship in
February, founding partners BT, Tesco, BSkyB and Manpower were
announced. Camelot, the Corporation of London, BA and BAA also became
In September BT’s Sholto Douglas-Home joined as its director of
marketing and communications on assignment from the telecoms giant.
By November the zones and respective sponsors were fully revealed, with
McDonald’s, Ford and Boots the Chemist announced as new sponsors. The
Dome is only pounds 30m short of its target but the media remain
obsessed with its content. Sponsorship company IMG had its contract for
raising funds terminated early, causing reports that it had been paid
pounds 4m but not been responsible for a single sponsor.
This article was first published on Marketing