Imperial Tobacco has taken its top brand, and the UK’s second biggest seller, Lambert & Butler out of Lowe Howard-Spink and handed it to Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy.
Imperial is a key LH-S account. It is believed to be the first time Imperial has moved one of its cigarette brands out of LH-S since agency founder Frank Lowe – who is known to be close to Lord Hanson – secured the account about a decade ago.
The unexpected move by the UK’s second biggest tobacco company was sparked by a new marketing strategy for the brand, which has benefited from the consumer drift towards “quality economy” cigarettes, as successive tax hikes push up prices.
For the first time Imperial is investing in a creatively driven advertising campaign for Lambert & Butler, which has only previously received regional advertising on the brand’s price after the Budget.
The company says Lambert & Butler is the UK’s fastest growing cigarette brand, with an 11.25 per cent market share by volume (including the Lights variant), after Gallaher’s market leader Benson & Hedges, which has about 14 per cent.
Lambert & Butler has resisted competition from Gallaher’s mid-market brand Sovereign, which was relaunched in the UK last Easter (MW February 2 1996) with a multi-million pound ad spend through M&C Saatchi.
Sales and marketing director Graham Blashill, who has previously worked with Mustoe Merriman principals including chief executive Nick Mustoe, says: “We want to add some brand values to Lambert & Butler. It offers real quality at a very affordable price.”
He adds that there are no plans to move any other Imperial brands, which include Embassy, John Player Special, Regal and Superkings, out of LH-S.
Grey Advertising handles the Henri Wintermans Cigars brand.