Evian drops its babies in favor of new U.S. ad approach

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Maria Sharapova in Evian's new campaign
Maria Sharapova in Evian's new campaign Credit: Evian

Evian is ending its iconic babies campaign, at least in the U.S., where the animated infants have been roller-skating, dancing and surfing in ads since 2009. The effort, which in its early years broke a world record for online ad views, will continue running globally. But the premium water brand says the babies are no longer the best representation of the youthful attitude it wants to portray in the states.

The babies, in addition to being visually entertaining, connected drinking water to living young. But for Americans, youthfulness has evolved to be more about "a mindset and an attitude," says Olivia Sanchez, VP of marketing for Evian in North America. "We embrace life at any age and we don't need to be told to go back to youth."

Evian will continue its "Live Young" creative platform in the U.S., but the brand is adding a new tagline, "I "Wanna," meant to appeal to "multidimensional people who live a life of their own design," according to a campaign description. In new outdoor and digital ads the babies are replaced by three human endorsers: Tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys, along with Luka Sabbat, a model, designer and self-described "creative entrepreneur" who has 1.2 million Instagram followers.

AKQA, Evian's digital agency, is behind the new ads. BETC, which first created the babies for the French market in 1998, remains the brand's global agency of record. As for the babies future globally, Sanchez says "that decision hasn't been fully made for 2019."

Madison Keys for Evian
Madison Keys for Evian Credit: Evian

In one of the new ads, Sharapova is shown not in her tennis gear but wearing a leather jacket and grasping an Evian besides the words "I Wanna Be Bold." (Sharapova has endorsed the brand for nine years, including as part of the babies campaign.) In another ad Keys strikes a defiant pose alongside the copy, "I Wanna Be Fearless."

The gramatically challenged "I Wanna" campaign is pretty idealistic; it's just bottled water after all. And the ads lack the frivolity and attention-grabbing animation that put babies in adult situations, like riding the waves in a 2016 surfing ad. The babies were conceived in France in 1998 with an ad depicting them in a synchronized swimming routine.

In 2009, Evian's roller-skating babies ad set a Guinness World Record for most viewed online ad, racking up more than 45 million views as of Nov. 9 of that year. After surpassing the 100 million view mark by 2010, Evian put the ad on TV in the U.S.

The current world record holder for online ad views is Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches," which had more than 124 million views as of November 2013, according to the latest information on the Guinness World Records website.

"It's always difficult to move away from a creative idea that has done so well for us," Sanchez says. "It was a tough decision [but] it was backed by research so we really did our due diligence."

She says a new message was required as Evian seeks to stay relevant as more premium bottled water brands hit the market. Previously, Evian dealt with two major competitors, Fiji and Coca-Cola-owned Smartwater. But now it is fighting for shelf space with newer entrants like PepsiCo's Lifewtr. Evian's U.S. sales grew 4.9 percent to $141 million in the 52 weeks ending June 17, according to IRI.

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