Charmin's U.K. rollout, noted in a research report from Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Heather Hay, will mark its third product due to be expanded into that market, following Bounty paper towels and Tempo tissue, both planned for the first quarter of 2000. The activity follows an upsurge in European paper product sales recently at archival Kimberly-Clark.
The U.K. introduction marks Charmin's first foray outside North America, according to Ms. Hay.
NO MR. WHIPPLE
The London office of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, which handles Charmin in the U.S., will likely handle advertising, although it's not expected that the ads will feature the Mr. Whipple character who popularized the brand in the U.S. and reappeared in Charmin ads this year, according to an industry executive. D'Arcy already handles Bounty and Tempo in Europe.
P&G spokesmen in the U.S. and Europe wouldn't comment on the launch.
But industry executives in Europe believe P&G will roll Charmin into countries where it doesn't already have a bath tissue brand, such as Italy. P&G currently markets the Bess bath tissue brand in Germany.
Though P&G leads the bath tissue and paper towel categories in the U.S., it faces an uphill battle against Kimberly-Clark in Europe. A rise in Kimberly-Clark's tissue and diaper businesses in Europe has been a major factor in the company's recent strong sales, up more than 7% globally in the third quarter, according to U.S. analysts.
For its part, Kimberly-Clark is looking to bolster its Kleenex facial tissue brand with what it's calling a "North Atlantic" ad campaign, the first major work for the brand since J. Walter Thompson Co. took over as worldwide agency of record from Foote, Cone Belding earlier this year. The campaign is set to break in the first quarter.
"On all of our brands we would like to have a more consistent global communications message, so we're trying to drive that as many places as we can," said Thomas Falk, president-chief operating officer of Kimberly-Clark. "If you look at our Huggies advertising around the world, it consistently features happy babies and is a very consistent positioning."
IDEAS BEING TESTED
"We have a couple of campaign ideas that we're testing" for Kleenex, said a Kimberly-Clark spokeswoman, who added that New York and London offices of JWT are working on the effort.
Though Kimberly-Clark dominates the U.S. facial tissue category with a 50% share, it has lost about 4 share points in the past year to P&G's Puffs and Irving Tissue's Scotties brand, according to figures from Salomon Smith Barney.
U.S. retailers said P&G has gained ground in the past few months since redesigning packages and increasing package tissue counts to be more competitive with Kleenex.
Contributing: Dagmar Mussey, Ali Qassim.