Energizing their bases

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After pouring most of their money into their premium lines last year, Gillette Co.'s Duracell and Energizer Corp.'s Energizer are returning to their bases with dueling $100 million relaunches of their flagship brands.

The return to the battle for middle ground takes the fight closer to the players that had been spending the least and gaining the most in recent years-Rayovac Corp.'s value brand and private-label, led by Wal-Mart Stores' premium EverActive house brand.

Projecting winners is never easy in a category with a long history of fierce competition and vicious head-to-head comparisons. But the one clear winner so far is Omnicom Group, which stands to reap gains from internecine conflict.

Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, New York, spearheads the $100 million ad and promotion push starting this month behind the restaging of Duracell's base brand as "Copper Top." Meanwhile, Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., last week bested sibling shop DDB Worldwide, Chicago, for Energizer. The pair competed in a surreptitious winner-take-all creative shootout pitting TBWA, inventor of the Energizer bunny, against DDB, the creator of the bunny-free "Now Available in a Battery" campaign for the premium e2 brand-not to mention the shrill pre-bunny Jacko campaign of the 1980s.

Victor TBWA will handle a $100 million ad and promotion push to restage Energizer Advanced Formula as Energizer Max, which begins shipping this week, with TV and Internet ads expected to break by September.

Both Duracell and Energizer have succeeded in growing the premium end of the business, with Duracell's M3 now commanding a 17.5% share of the $2.5 billion premium segment, and Energizer's e2 taking a 4.8% share of the segment in the 52 weeks ended April 21, according to JP Morgan Securities.

Yet despite investing about $50 million each in media behind premium lines last year, as measured by Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, both marketers have seen their overall shares shrink of late. Duracell's overall share in the 13 weeks ended April 21 was down 2.5 points from a year ago to 46.9%, while Energizer's was up a modest 0.2 points to 33.8% on the year but down 1.7 points from the previous quarter.

Energizer's comparatively better results are in line with continued support for its base brand, which got $25 million in media support last year compared to almost nothing for Duracell's base brand.

Still, the biggest winner has been private-label, led by EverActive, with its share up 1.1 points to 8.1% of the total category for the 13-week period. Rayovac was up 0.3 points to 9.3%, though its 52-week share declined 0.1 point to 9.6%. Wal-Mart in January moved EverActive to key checkout locations nationwide and has extended the brand to disposable mobile phone batteries that its branded rivals lack.

Rayovac plans a comparatively modest $35 million advertising and promotion push in 2001 via WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, Chicago, behind its value brand, but won't be a casualty in the crossfire between its bigger rivals, said John Daggett, marketing services director. "Energizer and Duracell really compete for the same shopper," Mr. Daggett said. "They price them the same and they position themselves the same in their creative. ... Our strategy has been looking at top-tier quality for a value price."

Upgrades by rivals aside, he said Rayovac will be able to stick with its "Lasts as long as standard Duracell and Energizer for less" message delivered by Michael Jordan, who, notwithstanding scaling back other ad commitments, remains locked in a four-year contract with Rayovac.

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