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'The Milky Bar Kid is strong and tough'... but tough enough to survive?

With the possibility of a pre-watershed junk ad ban, many brands are being forced to review their advertising strategies, Karen Somerville and Clare Sargeant look at the challenges facing creatives.

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Gone are the days of the iconic Milky Bar Kid, Sugar Puff Monster, Coco the Monkey and various other characters stereotyped in today's society as food villains, as the industry faces up to the obesity debate.

With the threat of the junk food ban looming and the impact it will have on the TV advertising industry, the public health minister Dawn Primarolo intervened. She suggested that the government and the advertising industry combine their efforts to tackle the obesity debate, while avoiding the detrimental impacts upon the industry.

With many brands at risk from the impending changes, a key player in this new landscape is Kellogg and its position in the cereal market. This includes cereals such as Coco Pops, Rice Krispies and Frosties, as well as line-extensions under these sub-brands, example being Coco Pops Straws. Kellogg's, one of the first to change its strategy, is looking to eradicate Coco the monkey from its corporate image by 2009. Kellogg's new initiative is to focus upon a dialogue with parents and provide advertising that is not only entertaining, but engaging with this audience. This can be seen in their current campaign "the cupboard", where Coco Pops are looking to widen the family group.

The re-examination of a target audience strategy and significant changes to the primary target audience is a tactic many other brands have followed. Milky Bar, with its latest proposition, is an example of that. The campaign focuses upon the "all natural ingredients", aimed at mothers wishing to know what is going into their kids. It's an approach that is similar to what Nestle has done with another of its brands, Smarties and the eradication of blue Smarties.

Television revenue is not the only threat resulting from the proposed watershed ban, the other being the inability for brands to differentiate themselves through their established cartoon characters, which have in the past been an integral part of their brand's core identity. Advertisers will struggle to convey their brand values without animation, resulting in higher pressure upon creatives to produce outstanding ideas that can be leveraged into all of the brand's communications.

Karen Somerville and Clare Sargeant are studying advertising and marketing communications at Bournemouth University and are in their final year.

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