Activia 2012 – Back to relevancy, back on track!

Off to a Good Start (SILVER)
Best Insight (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Danone Canada
Pauline Varga – Vice-President, Marketing
Ben Angeloni – Marketing Director
Marie-Claude Trudeau – Senior Brand Manager
Alexandra Latendresse – Brand Manager
Flore Siboni – Assistant Brand Manager

Agency Credits: Saint-Jacques Vallée Y&R Brands
Marie-Andrée Bertrand – Vice-President, Chief Operating Officer
Élyse Boulet – Group Account Director
Hélène Mitchell – Account Director
Julie Bazinet – Strategic Planner
Martine Rioux – Account Coordinator
Daniel Poirier – Creative Director
Jennifer Goddard – Copywriter
Frédérick Wolfe – Copywriter
Francis Lévesque – Art Director

Crossover Notes:
All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2013 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 9. Turnarounds.
Crossover Note 14. Refreshing a continuing campaign.
Crossover Note 15. Baby with the Bathwater.
Crossover Note 16. When a campaign stumbles.
Crossover Note 20. Emotional versus Rational.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):December 31, 2011 – July 1, 1012
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: December 31, 2011
Base Period as a Benchmark: Historical Comparisons

a) Overall Assessment

Activia is a brand that has benefited from great financial success and also achieved a strong brand equity over the past years. A result of good product, intelligent marketing decisions and effective advertising campaigns. However, starting in 2010 up to the end of 2011, Activia started to lose momentum and even experienced a decrease in sales vs. previous years. (Footnote 1) This was explained primarily by a price increase, less advertising presence, some advertising fatigue and a less effective messaging in 2011 television executions.[Crossover Note 16]  Therefore, we had to ask ourselves if there was still room to grow? Had Activia’s growth reached a plateau? How can this downhill trend be stopped?

Activia is a yogurt which contains a unique probiotic culture called B.L. RegularisTM, an ingredient that can contribute to a healthy gut flora. In other words, it helps to improve digestive comfort by reducing symptoms like slow transit, bloating or gas. (We will refer to these effects as digestive discomforts in this document.) However, the success of Activia does not only rely upon that functional benefit. Even though 75% of Activia users link digestion to the product, it is not its primary consumption driver. In fact, the biggest driver is its taste. (Footnote 2)

Digestive health is an important subject according to a New Nutrition Business report, published in 2011, stating that digestive health will become the #1 trend in food, nutrition and health. Also, 66% of Canadians admit experiencing digestive discomfort at least once a week. (Source: CDHF) This meant to us that the solution Activia provided was relevant and would grow in importance.

Competitive landscape:
We can’t talk about yogurts without mentioning Greek yogurts. A new phenomenon which is revolutionizing the competitive landscape. This new category is growing at a rapid pace (in 2011, the Greek yogourt category represented 4.9% of all yogurt sales. Today, it represents  5.7%). (Footnote 1) This category could not be ignored when developing any communication strategy since its main consumption drivers are its great texture and taste along with its nutritious factors.

Yogourt consumption:
It seems evident that there is still room to grow the yogurt category when comparing Canadian yogurt consumption to European consumption.
-Canada:  10.1 kg annual yogurt consumption per capita
-Norway: 18.2 kg (lowest consumption in Europe, excluding UK and Ireland)
-France: 38.9 kg (the highest consumption in Europe)

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Marketing Objective:
Increase frequency of consumption among actual Activia users: +8 cups per year.

Communication Objective:
Convince Activia users that it is important to eat Activia every day.

c) Annual Media Budget
Over $5 million

d) Geographic Area
National English and French Canada

Footnote 1: AC Nielsen, MarketTrack, TonnVol%Chg Activia L52 weeks 2011 vs. 2010
Footnote 2: TNS, U&A 2012

a) Analysis and Insight

It was imperative to focus on what gives Activia its competitive advantage and what was going to have the power to shift consumption habits: the “Relevancy of its benefit”. [Crossover Note 14]

In order to increase consumption amongst Activia users who are mostly women between the ages of 35-65, we needed to understand how important Activia’s benefit was to them. In doing so, we were astonished to discover that even if the majority of Canadians admit to experiencing digestive discomfort at least once a week, most of them consider that as normal and are not actively looking for solutions. Which brings us to ask this question:  “How to increase Activia consumption if the benefit it provides is not solving something that is considered a problem, or at least not an important one?”

However, when questioning Canadians further, they all admit that those discomforts are bothersome, affect their vitality, and prevent them from feeling at their best. (Source: U&A Canada 2009) There was our solution: If we wanted to increase consumption we had to make consumers realize that it is not normal to experience digestive discomforts and that it prevented them from feeling at their best every day.

b) Communication Strategy

The decision to focus on digestive discomforts and the solution Activia provided met with many constraints. Such communications are heavily regulated in the food category and claims to that effect could not be made, at least not on television. For example, we were not allowed to talk about digestive discomforts, use expressions such as “feel good / feel normal”. Also, Activia alone could not be associated to the solution; eating healthy and exercising had to be part of the package. This was not a simple solution for the consumers, keeping in mind that we wanted to increase their consumption of Activia.

To counter these regulations, we identified specific moments in the year that would help us talk about the causes that bring on digestive discomforts. The causes for digestive discomforts are: changing eating habits, eating fatty food, eating fast, stress, and lack of exercise. The moments we selected for the first part of the year were: Post-Christmas: when we eat more, eat later and are less active. Spring Fever: after a long winter of eating more comfort food and not being as active due to colder weather. Summer: In summer, our routine changes: BBQ’s, vacations, lounging around.

We also put to contribution our association with the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, so that there was no confusion about the fact that we were talking about digestion and so as to add credibility to our solution.

It was also important to maintain the same positive tone that had been used for Activia in the past.

And finally, it was important [Crossover Note 15] to leverage elements in our communication that had helped us build strong brand recognition over the years:
-belly square dancer
-yellow arrow and B.L. Regularis
-green colour
-music (for media that allowed for it)

(Footnote 1)

Footnote 1: Ipsos Continuous tracking

a) Media Used

Television, Internet and Magazines

b) Creative Discussion

For our television and Internet video, we felt that first-person story telling ‘testimonials’ were the best way to communicate seasonal insights. However, we opted out of the textbook version of testimonials. We wanted to continue building strong brand equity, but felt that advertising that relies purely on product benefit doesn’t help build a strong, lasting relationship between brand and consumers.  [Crossover Note 20] We decided to add flavour (and more fun) to the traditional testimonial approach by first finding talent who had a distinct, memorable character. Each script line explaining the seasonal insight was carefully crafted to establish a human connection with our audience (all that comfort food, cushy couch time...) The spots were cut in a dynamic way that allowed for comic  out-takes, another departure from the classic testimonial format.

In the first part of the television execution, the actress enumerates what seasonal element has brought on her digestive discomfort. Even if we could not mention “digestive discomfort”, we felt that the audience would understand  through the non-verbal gestures what we were trying to communicate.


In the second part of the execution, the actress realizes that she does not want to go on feeling like this, so she decides to take control by exercising, eating better and enjoying Activia every day.

The last part of the message shows the actress dancing as she is holding a piece or cardboard with the belly dancer tummy dancing as she says “That makes all the difference”.


For our post-Christmas and spring executions, the story reflected the past, so our CTA was: Get back in the rhythm. For our Summer execution, however, we wanted to encourage users to enjoy summer while trying to maintain good habits so as to stay away from digestive discomforts. While the format was the same,  our CTA became: Stick to the rhythm. Rhythm was going to be the common element for our CTA‘s since it was ownable and would reinforce the message that Activia should be part of your daily routine. Activia Every day is the new signature to encourage daily consumption.

Please see TV spots attached.

In magazines, we chose a 1 full page + a 3-page spread that was used to wrap an existing health section featuring the importance of digestive health. We used the full page to communicate WOW facts about digestive health that had the power to increase relevancy of Activia’s benefit. Again, because of regulatory constraints and to allow us to feature convincing WOW facts, the decision was taken not to sign the ad with Activia alone, but together with our partner the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation although design and color of the page strongly suggested the Activia brand. Once the reader had read the Canadian Digestive health advertising or the digestive health section, the 3-page spread focused on the superiority and credibility of Activia and its benefit.

Both the print and television executions were well integrated,  leveraging Activia strong visual elements such as the belly square, the arrow and the green colour.

c) Media Discussion

a) Sales/Share Results

Activia got back in the rhythm… with a double-digit growth vs. last year, despite Greek segment emergence. See the graphic below. [Crossover Note 9]

While still only half way through the year, we are in line with the marketing objective of a 10% growth vs. last year which would be equivalent to +8 cups per Activia user by the end of the year.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

When looking at sales variation over last year as compared with advertising efforts (graph below),  we can’t ignore that the new advertising platform is having a positive effect on sales vs. last year.

The Post-Christmas spot showed good results in Ipsos post-test with above norm results on Persuasion, Recall, and Messaging.  During that period, baseline sales experienced a 13% lift.

During the Spring Fever campaign, a positive lift from baseline vs. same period last year was observed during the whole campaign and reached a high of 26%. In post-test, Spring Fever had even better results with above norm results on Recall, Brand Link, Messaging, Persuasion, Enjoyability. (It was very important for us to score well in Persuasion and Messaging for both Post-Chrismas and Spring Fever as we had to do all kinds of  gymnastics to avoid regulatory constraints in communicating clearly the problem Activia could help with.) 

We do not have post-test results on the Summer execution that started on June 18 and will be on air until August 18, 2012 but when looking at June sales, this television execution seems to be performing well. The week of June 30th shows a positive variation of 28% from baseline vs. last year.

Post Christmas Internet: On the web, we reached 55 million impressions with the banners and  150,717 people clicked on them during that campaign. This 0.27% rate in clicks is above norm. 63% (93,896) of those who clicked watched the video and ordered their coupons booklet. Those results were all above the KPI we had set for the campaign.

Spring Chatelaine sponsorship:

 The Chatelaine digestive health section sponsorship on the Chatelaine web site helped us increase digestive relevancy,  benefit  understanding and association with Activia since time spent on the digestive health section by people coming from that web site as well as from the banners promoting the section was betwen 1 min. 35 sec. and 41 sec.


 A survey was done on the Chatelaine web site asking readers if they remembered seeing the Activia ad in the June issue: 1 out of 3 remembered seeing the ad. 20% of those who recalled it were already Danone yogurt consumers. Among those who do not currently eat Danone yogurt, 51% said they were very/somewhat likely to purchase the product within the next 4 weeks.

Best practice:

 The results are so positive that Canada’s new Activia campaign is now considered international “best practice” across 40 countries in the world. We have already received several requests from people around the world who want to find out more about our communication strategy and creative platform. That includes Germany where our Summer execution has already been adapted and aired.

Have we met our communication objective yet? We believe that we have convinced Activia users that digestive discomfort happens to most of them and more often than they thought. And that is what we needed to do to increase consumption amongst users.


Other factors that had an impact on sales lift:

In August 2011, Danone decided to reduce the price of Activia as a result of a decrease in price/value perception at the beginning of 2011. This has contributed to positive results in Activia sales, however, it cannot be held accountable for the positive sales lifts vs. baseline that were observed and continue to be observed since the new platform was introduced at the end of December.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:




Distribution Changes:


Unusual Promotional Activity:


Other Potential Causes: