Hovis launched its new advertising campaign a fortnight ago with a headline-grabbing spot lasting more than two minutes in the middle of Friday’s Coronation Street.

Although the new campaign sticks to the tried-and-tested ‘As good today as it’s ever been’ theme, reaction to the new commercial itself was mixed. The Grocer’s own reviewer was slightly underwhelmed, despite the massive investment in production values, bringing back some of the magic of Ridley Scott’s 1973 classic.

However Premier’s apparently substantial investment in what is effectively a Hovis relaunch appears to buck the current downward expenditure trend in bread advertising, traditionally dominated by Allied Bakeries (manufacturer of Kingsmill, Allinson and Sunblest), Warburtons and Premier Foods’ British Bakeries, maker of Hovis and Nimble. If we look at their ad expenditure year-on-year, all three have reined in their activity. Their combined spend has dropped by virtually a quarter year-on-year, with total spend dipping from almost £20m in the year to August 2007 compared with under £15m in the year to August 2008.

Within these totals, the lion’s share is accounted for by TV. In the year to August 2007, Kingsmill spent £7.7m on TV, dropping to £6.3m to August 2008, with spend on outdoor and press dropping to virtually nil. Warburtons’ expenditure patterns are identical – a drop of more than £1m on TV and an even more substantial drop for press, down to less than £200,000 following a £1.5m spend the previous year.

Until now, it’s been a similar story for Hovis and Nimble, which cut their TV spend by more than £800,000 year-on-year. Hovis spent just under £3m on TV compared with £3.7m the year before. However, the Hovis press spend grew from £202,000 to £469,000 and spending on outdoor went from zero to more than £1m.

So Hovis was already bucking the trend as far as non-TV media spend is concerned. The bold move in putting real weight behind its expensive new commercial contrasts with the reticence of other brands. However, this exceptional level of expenditure could struggle to show a real return on investment without significant share growth.