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Robert Clouston (chart) CLOUSTON SEES LEAF GROWING IN CANDY LAND

By Published on .

As the new engineer, Robert Clouston wants to see confection sales at Leaf, North America, take off like a bullet train, not chug along like its 1950s Good & Plenty TV commercial character Choo-Choo Charlie.

The avid Lionel train collector became president-CEO in August, succeeding James Hanlon, who became chairman in May. Mr. Clouston had spent 18 years marketing confectionery and consumer health products for Warner-Lambert Co. in the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Clouston wants to see the Lake Forest, Ill.-based company, with $500 million in sales, become a faster-acting marketer, and its candy and gum business take off the way Jolly Rancher has since being repositioned as a hip teen treat (AA, July 4).

"Leaf, from my perspective, has tremendous untapped potential," says Mr. Clouston, 48. "Its brands are strong: Jolly Rancher, Heath, PayDay, Good & Plenty and Whoppers. But some haven't had the [advertising and marketing] support they need."

That means Leaf's $14.5 million ad budget is likely to get a boost. Mr. Clouston says spending will be increased "selectively."

The only brands getting significant ad support from N W Ayer, Chicago, in 1993 were Jolly Rancher ($8.6 million) and PayDay ($3.3 million), according to Competitive Media Reporting.

With non-chocolate sales growing faster than chocolate sales, Leaf is positioned well against its chocolate confection rivals, he says.

"You don't have to have major national ad budgets, a direct sales force and proprietary technology-certainly not in candy," he says. "Three or four ingredients make up every product on the shelf."

Mr. Clouston plans to take advantage of Leaf's global presence to take some successful U.S. brands to Europe and import some European brands. Potential imports include Xylifresh gum; Lo, a low-calorie chocolate bar; and Chewits, a fruit toffee.

Mr. Clouston also can be counted on to use some of the same marketing tactics from his Warner-Lambert days. Trident sales soared in 1993 after changing its fruit flavor to cherry and promoting the Canadian Dental Association seal, says the man who was among Advertising Age's 100 of the Best & Brightest Young Ad Clients in 1986.

Mr. Clouston is even goal-oriented in his hobbies. While giving up tae kwon do competition six years ago after breaking a rib, he says the sport helped him at work.

"I used to be hot-headed. You really learn to control your emotions and be on an even keel. ... People who overreact lose credibility and power," he says.

Mr. Clouston says changes will be seen at Leaf within six months.

"Leaf has the potential to be a major player in North America in candy," he says. "It's not gotten there yet, but it will."

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