Diageo is to review its advertising account for Smirnoff Ice.

The move to reconsider Smirnoff Ice's advertising must be viewed in the context of slowing expansion in the FAB sector. Diageo is unlikely to regain the kind of sales growth for Smirnoff Ice seen soon after its launch in 1999, but it can take comfort from the fact that FABs will consolidate their status as an established category in the overall alcoholic drinks market.

Despite being the UK's most popular Flavored Alcoholic Beverage (FAB) brand over the past five years, Smirnoff Ice's manufacturer Diageo recently admitted that sales of the brand dropped significantly last year, although it retained its status as market leader. This reflects a wider trend that has affected many FAB brands in the aftermath of the remarkable growth of the category between 1999 and 2003.

One exception to this pattern is Beverage Brands' WKD, which has benefited hugely from its ongoing irreverent advertising campaign. Perhaps spurred into action by its competitor's success, Diageo has now decided to review its advertising for Smirnoff Ice. Its current "Lyriquid Perfection" campaign has been labeled as confusing by some in the advertising industry, although a further round of these adverts is planned for September.

A change in advertising tack though may still not be enough to protect Smirnoff Ice from the wider trends affecting FABs. Sales of these drinks in the UK grew by 10.4% in 2003, against almost 27% in 2001. It seems that much of this slowdown can be attributed to the fact that FABs are no longer perceived as quite as cool as they were when they were initially launched.

This arguably reflects the changing fashion tastes of their core consumers: young adults in their late teens and early twenties. Indeed, since most FABs are sold via the on trade rather than via retail channels, their burgeoning popularity has made them increasingly ubiquitous in bars and clubs. This in itself is likely to persuade image-conscious young drinkers to switch to other alternatives that are perceived as 'cooler' because they are not being drunk en masse.

Nevertheless, in the longer term FABs will solidify their position as a distinct category in the alcoholic beverages market with a definite consumer base, even if we may have said goodbye to the stellar growth of recent years.