Last autumn, Lexis was behind the successful Science of Dunking
campaign for McVitie’s, which used scientific research to find an
equation for the optimum time to dunk a biscuit in a hot drink. During
the preparation for the campaign, which won this year’s PR Week award
for best use of research, the team discovered that ten times more
flavour was released from a biscuit when it was dunked, and that a ’Nose
Space’ machine existed which could measure the release of food
They put the discovery to one side, as for the basis of this year’s
follow-up campaign, also led by Dr Len Fisher at Bristol University, to
establish scientific research into which drinks bring out the best
flavour in biscuits when they are consumed at the same time.
To reinforce the idea that McVitie’s is constantly looking at new ways
to improve its products for the consumer.
Strategy and Plan
The planning for the campaign kicked off immediately after Science of
Dunking had run its course with a search to check there had been no
previous coverage of the Nose Space machine in the consumer press.
Since taste is largely determined by the odour of food, the machine
works by analysing the chemical composition of air breathed in through
the nose by people who are eating. The scientists looked at how the
chemical which gives biscuits their taste was affected by different
Dr Fisher carried out research with the Nose Space on more than 200
different biscuit and drink combinations using McVitie’s core brands
over two months, with a brief to come up with the top five combinations.
He found that digestives released more flavour when eaten with chocolate
milk; hot milk releases more flavour from Hobnobs; cold milk was best
with ginger nuts, hot chocolate boosted the taste of caramel digestives;
and orange juice brought out more flavour in Jaffa Cakes.
Lexis decided to build the campaign around the angle that it was the
first time scientists had measured how the flavour of one food affects
another, with the ’top five’ results as colour, to give it more
One month before the 9 November launch date, the story was offered as an
exclusive to BBC Newsgathering, which filmed the research for various
BBC channels and led to Radio 4 heading the radio coverage. The Sun was
also offered an exclusive to visit the labs. Then science correspondents
and consumer affairs correspondents on the other nationals were
As PR Week went to press, Lexis was also aiming to challenge BBC Food
and Drink expert Jilly Goolden to a taste test, and was putting Dr
Fisher up for ’day in the life’-type features.
Measurement and Evaluation
Lexis will be using CMS Precis to carry out a full assessment of the
media coverage after the campaign has run its course, but initial
indications are that it has exceeded client expectations.
Selling the story in to the BBC first led to 38 radio interviews on the
day of the launch. A number of radio stations ran busy phone-ins for
listeners to give their opinion of what drink goes best with
Lexis avoided a cynical response to the commercial backing of the
research, by stressing that it was the first time that research had been
undertaken into the effect of one food on another. While the agency was
never going to gain the same amount of penetration with this story as
the original Science of Dunking campaign, it did create a strong sequel
which reinforced the idea that McVitie’s is more than just a biscuit
PR Team: Lexis PR
Campaign: The Science of Flavour
Timescale: Nov 1998 - 9 Nov, 1999
Budget: pounds 40,000