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[london] In the early 1990s, London International Group was a mess. Its photo processing business was hemorrhaging cash, diversification into household products proved disastrous, and the core condom business was devastated by quality concerns and a refusal to advertise.

Today, a back-to-basics strategy putting marketing muscle behind Durex condoms has revived LIG as the world's biggest branded condom marketer.

The turnaround began in September 1993 with new management, which dumped the photo processing business, sold household products and concentrated marketing efforts on condoms.

LIG saw global potential in Durex, but it isn't one single global brand-it's Hatu in Italy, Ramses and Sheik in the U.S., London in Germany, and Durex elsewhere. The Durex quality seal was introduced in 1994 to pave the way for a global campaign.

"The packaging on the London condoms in Germany is being changed to say `From the house of Durex,'*" said Clive Kitchener, group director of marketing. Mr. Kitchener wants to keep local names while making Durex a more prominent global name.

"The idea behind it is that anywhere you go in the world, you will see the Durex name, rather than lots of sub-brands," said James Dodwell, analyst at County Natwest in London. "People want security and safety when they are buying these products."

Durex's global campaign by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, London, broke in December on the "Dial MTV" call-in show in Europe and equivalents worldwide.

"We were briefed to help globalize the Durex brand. We sponsor `Dial MTV,' an interactive program in which the viewers phone up and vote for their favorite songs," said Jenny Freeman, international media manager at McCann. "Durex is the only advertiser actually associated with that program."

Durex spots accompany a parade of Durex promos during "Dial MTV," and announcers even thank Durex for sponsoring the show.

The Durex spots, also running on broadcast TV in some markets, have a music-video quality with explicit sexual images and the tagline "Feeling is everything."

The spot promotes multiple brands, but the global initiative is working. In the six months ended Sept. 30, LIG's profit was $7.8 million, a sixfold increase over the previous year; sales rose 7.3% to $223 million. Durex boasts 21% of the worldwide branded condom market.

And in Europe, where Durex has 44% of the branded condom market, share is increasing.

After a European MTV campaign last year, LIG's research showed that the percentage of respondents who agreed with the phrase, "Durex is a brand for young people" moved up to 45% from 21%, while those who thought Durex was "fun" increased to 38% from 21%

"We are trying to present the Durex brand much more in terms of something positive and fun, as well as being for safer sex, which it has always been," Mr. Kitchener said. "I think that is the biggest challenge we face."

Mr. Dodwell said, "Governments are more willing to allow condoms to be advertised. It was once a form of birth control, but now it is a form of protection."

Condoms account for 35% of LIG sales but 90%-$48 million-of its ad spending in the year ending March 31, 1996.

Durex has the biggest condom share worldwide; U.S. pharmaceuticals company Carter-Wallace is No. 2 with a 10% share worldwide and 60% in the U.S. Durex saw its 30% U.S. market share plunge in 1987, after a government test proved many of their products were faulty, but new management finally is slowly, and at great cost, rebuilding the brands through marketing support.

"Some of the gains they are getting from rationalization and the disposal of the photo business are being put into more marketing and advertising for condoms," Mr. Dodwell said. "It seems to be the right strategy."

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