Unilever, Henkel prepare for battle

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HAMBURG -- Unilever and Henkel both plan to launch in Germany in August their own variants of laundry detergent tablets - the latest innovation in the laundry cleaning wars.

Henkel is introducing Persil Tabs with a heavy- weight campaign - estimated to be worth more than $34 million - through Duesseldorf-based Lowe & Partners. The company is expected to roll the product out into Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and the Benelux countries eventually.

Meanwhile, Unilever, owner of the Persil brand in the U.K. and France since World War II, is launching Sunil Tablets in Germany with a $17 million ad push during the first 12 months. Roster agencies Ammirati Puris Lintas, Hamburg, and Frankfurt-based J.Walter Thompson are currently pitching for the account.

Both companies have spent years developing the tablet technology, though their versions differ: Henkel's are used in the washing machine's powder dispenser drawer and Unilever's are placed in a net bag directly on top of the laundry load.

Henkel leads the $1.3 billion German standard detergents market with a 43.6% share, according to IKW, the association of detergent and bodycare marketers. Procter & Gamble is second and Unilever third.

Henkel and Unilever have already met head-on with their tablet detergent launches in France. Henkel recently launched under the Le Chat name (with ads through Lowe & Partners Alice, Paris), against Unilever's Skip brand.

Henkel has also introduced its tablets in Italy, this time under the Dixan name in ads via Verba DDBN, Milan.

Unilever's tablets debuted first in the U.K. with a multimedia campaign through JWT, London, which began mid-May. There, the product went under the Persil Tablets banner. In Greece, they have taken the Skip name, as in France.

A roll out across Europe is set for later this year, in which Unilever will pick its strongest detergent brand name in each market to apply to the product.

Schwalbach-based Procter & Gamble is test-marketing its Ariel Discs in two U.K. towns: Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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