Ariel launches biggest marketing push for a decade as it looks to get laundry market back in growth

The P&G-owned brand is hoping to convince more shoppers to convert to liquitabs with a £10m campaign that builds on the “entrepreneurial spirit” Marc Pritchard has called for.

Ariel is launching its biggest marketing push for a decade as it looks to convert more shoppers from liquid washing detergent to more premium liquitabs and drive growth back into the category.

The £10.5m campaign, which launches today (7 March), features a TV ad that aims to “shake up” the laundry market by showcasing the “ease and simplicity” of washing with liquitabs. The campaign, created by Publicis Groupe, shows a range of different people and their varying washing needs and how Ariel Pods can help make washing faster and easier.

Supporting the TV ad will be print, outdoor and selective online advertising that will target people that Ariel knows don’t use pods but might be open to switching. Plus Ariel is launching an education campaign around how to use the pods and store them safely with an online video (see below) featuring comedian Katherine Ryan, created by MMK.

The campaign marks a significant increase in marketing spend on the Ariel brand by its owner Procter & Gamble (P&G) as it looks to reinvigorate a market that has seen flat sales growth over the past few years. Mintel estimates that the UK laundry detergents market was worth £984m in 2017, a 2.3% year-on-year decline.

P&G has invested £20m of marketing money into Ariel, and in particular pods, over the past three years to drive trial, with a third of consumers now using pods versus one-in-five a few years ago.

With this campaign, Ariel is increasing its media investment by 40% over 2018 and spend around its education message by 68%, with the hope of reaching 95% of UK households up to 10 times across the year.

The aim, says brand manager Dan Jalalpour, is to get the 50% of people that have never tried washing with pods to convert. And he hopes the endline ‘Do you Pod?’ will offer “more direct engagement” and encourage more shoppers to try the product.

“This is the next instalment of a big journey we have been on with Ariel to transform the category by driving conversion into Pods,” he tells Marketing Week. “We want to drive value into the category. People will pay more of a premium for Pod and so we want to encourage them to take that next step.”

Laundry category sales are “broadly flat” in value terms, according to Jalalpour, with liquitabs the only segment that is growing. Within the liquitab segment, Ariel has a 30% share but it now wants to drive up its market share by increasing household penetration and value sales, as well as the market share of liquitabs overall.

“The most important measure to look at is have we accelerated the adoption curve into the form both for Ariel and for the unit dose form overall,” he says. “In a flat category we want to drive conversion into a premium form.”

Adopting an entrepreneurial spirit

Jalapour says the campaign also marks a different way of working with its agencies that reflects P&G brand boss Marc Pritchard’s demands for a more entrepreneurial approach to marketing. He explains how the team has removed agency siloes and brought media planning and creative development together so they work as “one brand team”. And while the ad builds on global and regional work on the Ariel brand and its positioning, this campaign takes a more entrepreneurial role locally by creating more relevant creative for a UK audience and a 360-degree plan that goes beyond TV.

READ MORE: Why Pritchard’s speech is a clear sign agencies must ‘reshape’ for the future

“[We have worked with Publicis] in a disruptive and different way. The things we are doing now on Ariel reflect the spirit of what [Pritchard] was getting at. We have got rid of the siloes agencies typically work in to create one joined up brand team with agency partners. We have the benefit of a joined up approach and thinking more entrepreneurially about how we bring the campaign to market,” he says.

Jalalpour also admits that while there has been a 40% increase in media investment, some of that budget has come from taking money away from non-working media, rather than it being a 40% increase in total marketing budget. “We have worked out that when we have a strong message and piece of creative you can make that work pretty hard. And so we have used some of the money we might have used to come up with the next ad in six months [and put it into] what we call working investment – what the consumer really sees.”

Yet despite concerns that agencies might be worried about their role going forward, Jalalpour says in reality “everyone feels more like equal partners”.