The estimated $10 million ad campaigns for each from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, are the result of yearlong research that told the giant marketer the brands were perceived as too much alike.
The spending is split among newsweeklies, business magazines and fashion publications and will run through the holiday gift-giving season.
Both brands also will receive a spending boost for 1997, and TV commercials; the budgets haven't been finalized.
The identity crisis arose three years ago, when Gillette purchased U.K.-based Parker Pen, adding a new luxury brand to the stationery-products group that includes France-based Waterman, acquired by Gillette seven years ago.
The two brands combined represent about 25% of the global market.
"When you own two brands in the same category, you need clear-cut identities for each," said David Weiss, senior VP-worldwide account director for Gillette stationery products at McCann. "We needed to find the core essence of each brand.
"The ads are not so much a strategic change as a better execution of the creative," he said.
Parker's new ads highlight functional craftsmanship with product close-ups and the tagline, "A Parker is in the details."
"The former approach [`Just like a Parker'] might have been clever for the industry, but from a consumer's standpoint, it did not have universal appeal," said Steve Beaumont, marketing director for Parker.
Waterman's prior advertising emphasized the brand's broad array of styles designed for people with discriminating taste. The new ads-themed "Express yourself"-emphasize that the wide variety allows consumers to select a pen that makes a style statement.
"Waterman is supposed to be vibrantly expressive, a step away from the crowd, success on your own terms," said Waterman President Jean Veillon.
Ads include close-ups of a tuxedo shirt with two pens criss-crossed like a bow tie, and an elegant dinner place setting with Waterman pens masquerading as silverware.
The identity problem had become more pronounced as both brands grew internationally. Worldwide, Parker is the top seller of pens priced $5 or higher, followed respectively by Cross, Mont Blanc and Waterman, according to Gillette calculations.
Since the Gillette purchase, Waterman sales have doubled to $140 million, driven by sales outside of France that now account for 70% of revenues compared to 30% in 1989.
Currently, the U.S. is Waterman's largest market followed by Europe; Asia is the fastest-growth region.
GROWTH FOR PARKER
Meanwhile, Parker sales have grown by 7% to 8% per year under Gillette ownership to reach approximately $300 million. North America accounts for 20% of sales, with 39% from western Europe and the remainder spread throughout the Middle East, eastern Europe and Asia.
Mirroring the brands' global reach, the advertising strategy remains consistent from region to region with only a few variations such as Asia, where Waterman plays up its status as a French luxury brand.
However, McCann has created several print executions that feature different styles of pens, allowing local managers to advertise the style they believe will sell best in their market.