Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol Kitchen ad takes on HUL’s Vim

18 Feb,2013

By Ratna Bhushan and Sagar Malviya


In a first for Reckitt Benckiser, the launching commercial for its Dettol Kitchen dishwashing and kitchen cleaning gel shows rival Hindustan Unilever’s Vim dishwash liquid clearly, in a move that may trigger a new advertising war between the two European multinationals.


The commercial, first aired on Friday, marks the first time the Indian arm of the British consumer good major has directly attacked HUL in its advertising.


Skirmishes between the two firms have been veiled in the past, although both have repeatedly taken each other to court and advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).


Officials of Reckitt Benckiser were not available for comment on the campaign. An HUL spokesperson too did not offer any comment on the subject. An official close to the developments said it was only a matter of days before HUL takes action against the disparaging ad.


Experts say that even if HUL files a complaint to ASCI on Monday, the Dettol Kitchen ads released on Friday would have created maximum impact over the weekend.


“Such ads gives a very strong message psychologically that it’s not just another product and they can compete with the market leader. While HUL almost has a monopoly in the segment, there could be more action now in an otherwise dull segment,” Nitin Mathur, consumer research analyst at Espirito Santo Securities, said.


ASCI chairman Arvind Sharma, who is also the chairman & CEO of Leo Burnett in Indian subcontinent, said that featuring a rival brand in a campaign alone does not break advertising codes.


“In general, the consumer complaints council code allows ads to show a rival brand as long as the claims made in the ad are fact-based,” said Mr Sharma who is also the president of Advertising Agencies Association of India.


The consumer complaints council checks violations in advertising and initiates action as and when necessary.


With this move, Reckitt Benckiser seems to have given HUL a taste of its own medicine.


Two years ago, HUL’s ads for Rin detergent took a dig at rival Procter & Gamble’s Tide, clearly showing pictures of Tide in the Rin ad. P&G had moved the court within a day of the ad going on air, and the ad was stopped within days.


As reported by The Economic Times last week, Reckitt Benckiser, which also makes Cherry Blossom shoe polish and Airwick air-fresheners, has taken its battle over germ-protection with HUL to the kitchen with the launch of Dettol Kitchen. India is only the second country after Korea to roll out Dettol Kitchen, a global innovation led by India.


Reckitt Benckiser has positioned Dettol Kitchen as a ‘complete kitchen cleaner’, for use as a dish-washing gel and cleaning other kitchen surfaces like sinks and slabs.


HUL’s Lifebuoy and Dettol have been rivals for close to three decades.


The 80-year-old Dettol brand, launched first as an antiseptic liquid in 1933, has subsequently been launched across different categories including soap, plaster, handwash, shaving cream, hand sanitiser, and now kitchen cleaner.


Vim, also an HUL power brand, has been dominating the dishwashing space for close to 100 years. The liquid dishwash segment is estimated at close to 300 crore, which is about 15% of the 2,000-crore overall dishwashing market that includes bars, powders and liquids. Growing at a rapid 40%, the liquid segment is the fastest growing among dishwashing formats.


Apart from Vim, Dettol Kitchen will compete with Henkel-Jyothy’s Pril and Exo. Dettol has some 53% of the 300-crore handwash category, followed by Lifebuoy at a share of about 30%. But in soap, Lifebuoy has close to14% share, against Dettol’s 8.2% market share.


The UK, Slough-based firm over a year ago named India as the headquarters for its South East Asia region, and placed India chairman and MD CM Sethi at the helm of 12 countries including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.


The Dettol Kitchen commercial may trigger an aggressive ad war between British firm Reckitt Benckiser and Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever in India ahead of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to India from today (Feb 18).


Source:The Economic Times

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