Marmite’s controversial ad sparks 14% sales uplift

Unilever’s controversial Marmite ad spurred a 14 per cent increase in sales last year providing a bright spot amid stagnant revenue from the group’s wider food business.

Video: Marmite “End Marmite Neglect” ad.

The brand’s first TV advert in two years was mired in controversy after it racked up more than 500 complaints for “trivialising” animal cruelty. The Adam&EveDDB-created ad, which urged people to “end Marmite neglect”, was ultimately not investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority and succeeded in driving demand for the polarising brand.

Unilever says the campaign had a “healthy” effect on sales at the beginning of its last quarter. Value and volume sales were up 14.1 per cent and 15.2 per cent in the eight weeks the TV ad was on air between August and October compared to the eight weeks prior.

Joanne O’Riada, brand manager at Unilever UK, says the sales lift “reinforces” that Marmite responds well to “above-the-line support”. The TV spot was amplified by “pivotal” We Are Social-created promotions to more than one million Marmite Facebook fans and over 35,000 Twitter followers, she adds.

Riada says: “Marmite is an iconic brand built on a strong, divisive personality, which the nation, whether lovers or haters, want to engage with. Facebook and Twitter are the perfect platforms to allow our fans to be part of the brand and celebrate it, which is proven through daily user-generated content and continued, engaged conversations.”

Marmite’s summer sales spike is a fillip for Unilever’s struggling food business. The division posted just a 1 per cent jump in food sales for the three months to December compared to a 6.5 per cent rise in sales of its home care brands. The underperforming unit “is now ready to grow again”, Unilever chief executive Paul Polman told analysts last month (21 January), helped by “encouraging early signs” of progress from its spreads brands.