Australian abroad

Cadbury’s marketing director, the affable and relaxed Australian, Mark Smith, could not be more different to his predecessor, Alan Palmer. Where Palmer is tall, dark and coolly patrician, Smith is cheerful, rosy-cheeked and approachable.

Palmer, the reserved Englishman, was reputedly inaccessible to ad agencies, while Smith, who laughs and winks at his own jokes, has already surprised and impressed admen with his willingness to jump on a London train at a moment’s notice from Cadbury’s headquarters in Bournville, Birmingham.

Chris Wood, chairman of brand development and product development group CLK.MPL, has worked with both men. He says: “You’ll never get a bad marketing director at Cadbury. It’s a plum post. But there’s a very interesting difference in styles between Alan and Mark. Mark has those typically Australian qualities – he’s cheerful, upfront and he’s good with people. Alan is thoughtful and intellectual.”

Smith, aged 43, stepped into Palmer’s shoes at the beginning of the year (MW February 5) after Palmer was promoted to international marketing director. While Palmer is a home-grown Cadbury manager who started as a graduate trainee, Smith is a man already steeped in international experience.

He joins Cadbury from the US where he was senior vice-president of marketing and technical development for Cadbury’s sister company Mott’s, a Connecticut-based beverage operation selling sauces and fruit drinks.

He was hired by Cadbury’s managing director in the UK, Colette Burke, who was once managing director at Mott’s. Before working for Mott’s, Smith spent 18 years in Australia. He started out as a Unilever trainee and worked in various marketing departments before a four-year stint as marketing director of Schweppes.

It is tempting to view the appointment of such an internationally-influenced individual as part of a greater trend at Cadbury’s – part of a bigger picture of accelerated global expansion.

However, Smith’s priority remains British consumers – Cadbury’s home market and its largest. He sees the international potential for new brands and advertising campaigns as a bonus: “First and foremost you have to be able to succeed in the local market. You need to be as sure as you possibly can be that you are going to persuade UK consumers to buy the product.”

Smith has already been involved in the launch of umbrella branding for the company’s six children’s brands under the name “CadburyLand”, the development of a brand extension called Nuts About Caramel, a new advertising campaign for Fuse and the 10m relaunch of Cadbury’s flagship brand, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

He says: “I believe in campaignable ideas – ones that can be followed up by more executions. Ideas that last are the most powerful. Without wanting to criticise the opposition, there’s a lack of great campaigns out there at the moment.”

Since he arrived at Cadbury, Smith has bolstered marketing resources in new product development. He says: “I want this department to be embracing marketing ideas. I want it to be a hotbed of ideas. My style is to have a positive outlook, a ‘go for it’ attitude and to be upfront and creative.”

So far he has not appointed a deputy. One industry source says that whereas Palmer funnelled some things through his number two, Smith is having to spend this first year “getting his hands dirty”. The source says: “He may have to burn a lot of candles. He needs to live and breathe those issues.”

Brett Gosper, chief executive of Cadbury roster agency EURO RSCG Wnek Gosper, says of his new client: “He’s a workaholic. He’ll jump on a train without hesitation. He’s accessible. He makes himself too accessible. He’s pulled in all directions, but he loves it.”

Gosper continues: “He’s ambitious creatively. The bigger the idea the more excited he gets, even if it’s economically impossible. Just as an example we were brainstorming and someone suggested Leonardo di Caprio with Milk Tray – maybe the idea wasn’t right but he was excited by the size of the idea.”

Cadbury’s recent aggressive spending would appear to contrast with a period of greater caution under Palmer, when TV advertising was not necessarily seen as the solution to the company’s problems.

Smith praises the sponsorship of ITV soap Coronation Street, which was masterminded by his predecessor and which he renewed in September, but he makes it clear that he did consider abandoning the deal.

He says: “It does a good job at what it’s good at… It’s clearly done a job for us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have other tasks.”

Clearly the future of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk was a pressing concern. “The moulded category was not growing in line with the total market, it was declining by one per cent a year.”

So why had Cadbury’s Dairy Milk not been on air for so long?

“Cadbury has invested in its brands since the year dot. We have a very wide-ranging portfolio. It was opportune that it was Cadbury’s Dairy Milk’s turn,” he says carefully.

When asked why he got the job, he says with no false modesty: “I think I bring a dynamic approach to marketing and a track record that’s been successful.”

He is open about his ambitions: “My long-term goal is to run a Cadbury business… Australia would be nice.”

He readily shows his affection for his wife and and two sons, Daniel aged 11 and Samuel aged eight, who are settling in to the new family home near Stratford-upon-Avon. Part of his new job involves looking after Cadbury’s visitor’s centre, Cadbury World, which his two sons have already visited.

Smith roars with laughter at the thought of this new corporate responsibility. “I’ve never had a theme park,” he chuckles.

Maybe he wouldn’t make a bad guide.

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