Following last year's inaugural winner of the Marketing Society New Marketer of the Year award, Marian Rose, was never going to be easy.
Rose's hard-hitting campaign for the NSPCC to put a 'Full Stop' to child abuse made waves with its uncomfortable advertising, yet succeeded in raising the issue's profile and substantially boosted donations made to the charity.
But the achievements of this year's winner, Clodagh Ward, have been no less impressive. As general manager of European condiments at HJ Heinz Europe, Ward was responsible for reinvigorating the troubled Heinz Salad Cream brand.
Before she took over the account, the company had been threatening to discontinue the Salad Cream line after almost a decade of decline.
Now sales are steadily rising, despite a price increase, and the brand's advertising, through Leo Burnett, has won several creative awards.
With the New Marketer of the Year award, Ward's work has been rightfully recognised by the industry. The award, run in association with Marketing and this year sponsored by FMCG giant Unilever, is designed to highlight young talent and fresh ideas and encourage the recognition of both in the marketing industry.
'In today's dynamic environment, the need for growth and to stimulate consumer demand has never been so challenging,' says Elida Faberge chairman Keith Weed.
'But perversely, the development of top quality marketers has become harder due to flatter structures and the fact that people are busier and have broader responsibilities, leaving less time for coaching and training. It's a priority interest for us to ensure people get top quality marketing skills.'
Commitment to youth
In addition to his Elida Faberge role, Weed is chairman of the Unilever Global Marketing Academy, which aims to build the skills of marketers across the Unilever group. A judge of the award this year, he was impressed by the quality of the shortlisted entrants.
To qualify, candidates had to be aged 35 or under and to have worked in a marketing role for a minimum of two years.
Entrants needed to demonstrate that they had made a significant contribution to a key marketing initiative, from the launch of a brand to the development of a new channel to market or a major change in communication strategy, both in terms of thinking and implementation.
They could either submit a 1500-word essay detailing their involvement in the work, outlining its objectives, importance to the company and top-line results. Or they could write a 1500-word piece on the potential long-term effects of the internet.
All those who made the shortlist were invited to make a presentation of their paper to the panel of judges, who picked a winner and second- and third-placed candidates (see panels).
The winner, Ward, received a three-week executive training course on the Young Managers Programme at leading European business school INSEAD, as well as a weekend break for two in Paris. The runners-up also received weekend breaks in the French capital, courtesy of Unilever.
M&C Saatchi chief executive Nick Hurrell was a judge both this year and in 1999. He detected an improvement in the overall standard of the submissions this year, finding them 'more impressive' than in the award's debut year, and also felt there were some 'thought-provoking' ideas and marketing solutions.
Hurrell believes that the quality of this year's candidates is indicative of the increasing front-line presence of young marketers.
'The way that marketing departments have shrunk over recent years has led to these younger people having much more responsibility and hands-on experience,' he says. 'We are seeing some wise heads on young shoulders.'
Fellow judge, Cranfield School of Management professor of marketing Malcolm McDonald, agrees that the general quality of entrants impressed against some exacting requirements. 'I was looking for something new and refreshing and exciting, and I was looking for insight,' he says.
Since winning last year, the NSPCC's Rose has moved to become senior marketing manager at The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. The New Marketer Award, she says, is an important exercise, because, creative prizes aside, most awards in the marketing sector tend to go to senior marketers who, having worked their way up to the top of the tree, are generally older.
Recognition of the contribution made by youth, she maintains, was long overdue.
This squares with the The Marketing Society's rationale for establishing the award. One of the organisation's aims is to foster excellence at all ages and career stages within the marketing field, thereby encouraging both strategic rigour and invention across the discipline.
'The Marketing Society is very pleased that its pursuit of championing marketing excellence is encouraging a high standard of entries,' says Claire Whitaker, director of live music promotion company Serious and a judge this year. 'The prize is growing in terms of its reach and prestige.'
WINNER: CLODAGH WARD
Clodagh Ward, general manager of European condiments at HJ Heinz Europe, won this year's competition for the clear strategy she mapped out and implemented to rejuvenate the Heinz Salad Cream brand.
Heinz Salad Cream was launched in 1914 and was the first product wholly conceived by Heinz UK. But for most of the 90s, the brand was in decline and appeared in real danger of demise before it had the chance to clock up its centenary.
Ward, who until September 1998 had been senior category manager for soup, the biggest category in the Heinz grocery division, was asked by the company to arrest the brand's dip in fortunes.
In the early-90s, the value of the mayonnaise market overtook Salad Cream for the first time, in no small measure due to the strong marketing support that was given to the Hellmann's brand since the mid-80s.
The problem, as Ward saw it, was that Salad Cream was trapped in a spiral.
Lower volumes were leading to declining profitability, which in turn brought about a reduction in marketing investment. This led to a lessening in brand saliency, which created a further fall in volumes.
Yet research showed there was genuine consumer affection for the brand.
It had an old-fashioned, homely image, and the fundamentals of the product were sound. And despite its name, many consumers were not just using it as a salad dressing, but on cheese sandwiches, toast or even pasta. Blind taste tests also showed that Heinz had the best product.
So Ward decided to exploit the brand's versatility and target it at younger consumers - specifically 20-something 'pick and mix' consumers who choose elements from different food genres when making a meal and are at a stage where they are adopting brands for life. Sampling at pop festivals found that young people liked it with pizza - an insight that was used in the advertising.
Looking at the pricing dynamics of the mayonnaise sector, where Hellmann's sold at a substantial premium to own-label competitors, Ward took the bold step of lobbying senior management at Heinz's European and worldwide headquarters to back her strategy of pushing up prices steeply. The recommended sales price of a 285 gram bottle of Heinz Salad Cream rose from 59p to 99p.
She also secured funding for a pounds 10m integrated campaign using TV, posters, print and radio advertising featuring the 'Any Food Tastes Supreme with Heinz Salad Cream' slogan.
Other elements included a sales promotion featuring 'screaming bottles' of salad cream, sponsorship of the Cream of British Comedy tour in association with Jongleurs and the launch of the saladcream.com web site. Two poster executions and the web site won creative awards.
Despite the substantial price rise, research showed that Heinz Salad Cream was still perceived by consumers as offering value for money.
The decline of the brand and indeed, the salad cream sector as a whole, has been arrested and the number of younger purchasers has grown. Thanks to the price rise, margins are looking much healthier for Heinz. The judges saw this as quite an achievement.
Although Ward is singled out as the recipient of New Marketer of the Year award, such a big turn-around required collaborative effort.
The involvement of Heinz Salad Cream brand manager Donna Oakley, also shortlisted for the New Marketer award, should not go unacknowledged, nor should the input of Leo Burnett, media specialist Starcom Motive, sales promotion outfit Dynamo, PR consultancy Holmes & Marchant and web agency Brand New Media, all of which worked as a team to put Ward's vision into effect.
RUNNER-UP: VINITA PANDEY
Vinita Pandey developed the 'Free Books for Schools' programme for Walkers Snacks. It is one of the biggest consumer promotions ever seen in the UK.
Given that Walkers is the largest food brand in the country, Pandey shrewdly realised it would be able to do things on a scale beyond most other brands. So she set about constructing a huge cause related marketing programme that would benefit schools by rewarding loyalty to the Walkers brand with free books during the National Year of Reading.
The main objectives of the programme were to make a genuine contribution to literacy, ignite a community collection craze and cement brand loyalty.
Research was carried out among teachers to determine which books would be useful - thereby giving the programme immediate credibility - and support was obtained from politicians, including an endorsement from Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett.
To widen the reach of the programme, Pandey negotiated a joint promotion with News International which allowed joint advertising, but ensured that the consumer mechanic for token collection remained straightforward.
It was this simplicity that was at the heart of the success of 'Free Books for Schools', coupled with the fact that the return on loyalty was plain to see, as only 50 tokens (or about pounds 12.50 worth of snacks) were needed to 'buy' a book worth pounds 4. Supermarket chain Asda was also brought on board, offering 'double tokens' in-store.
The results have been impressive. In its first year (1999), 450 million tokens were redeemed which meant that 2.3 million books were given to schools. The programme ran again this year and the grand total for 1999 and 2000 is now up to one billion tokens redeemed, putting 5.3 million books into schools. The average school has collected 14,000 tokens.
And the result for the brand has also been impressive - Walkers' volume and market share both increased.
'Free Books for Schools' has already won the Business in the Community award for Best Cause Related Marketing Programme. In August, Pandey was promoted from promotions manager to marketing manager, Walkers Crisps.
It seems highly likely that the programme will run again in 2001.
THIRD: LOUISE ELLERTON
Louise Ellerton caught the judges' eyes for the maturity of her presentation about the long-term effects of the internet. The 23-year-old Oxford University graduate, who has been a planner at integrated agency Interfocus for the past two years, demonstrated clarity of argument and breadth of understanding as she explored how technology will really change marketing.
Her sound grasp of internet viral marketing, which she summed up neatly as 'word of mouth at the speed of light', was evident as she examined the potential of the medium to hit very large numbers of people in a very short time.
Used well, she said, viral marketing is an effective method of creating 'trust brand' status among non-customers.
But she added that, as with any marketing medium, the message must be desirable, or consumers may respond negatively. The intrusive nature of e-mail makes it a powerful tool of communication, but if a message is ill-judged, it can do more harm than good.
Ellerton concluded that the internet will become an important part of the marketing mix, but that new technologies will bring new possibilities in the coming years. The key for marketers is to communicate with consumers in a way that is relevant to them.
At Interfocus, Ellerton has been involved in developing the positioning for Lloyds TSB's online bank, Evolvebank.
Her enthusiasm for marketing is underlined by the fact that for three summers, from the age of 17, she spent her holidays working for ad agency St Luke's. The following summer, she worked as a brand management intern on the Head & Shoulders brand at Procter & Gamble.