Tesco’s Love Every Mouthful – a plateful of poo

22 Jul 2013  |  Dominic Mills 
Dominic Mills new

Tesco's new campaign was meant to be the big-game changer but instead, has turned out to be one great big plateful of poo, says Dominic Mills, as he asks where exactly it all went wrong...

Recipe: Take one of the UK's biggest retailers, with a history of great advertising over the last 20 years; add in an agency at, or near the top, of its game.

Spice it all up with loss of market share in its key UK base; throw in a newish chief executive desperate to stamp his authority on the company; then, at the last minute, rub in a supply chain scandal which saw the client suffer severe reputational damage and grovel in public. Mix all the ingredients together and allow to stand for several months.

Result: Tesco's Love Every Mouthful campaign which, I'm sorry to say, looks like one great big plateful of poo. Yet this is the one that's supposed to be the big-game changer. So where did it all go wrong, Tesco and Wieden and Kennedy people?

The campaign broke on TV on Sunday and in the press the day after. You can see the first TV ad here and an example of the press work here.

Well, you might say, the TV ad is sort of ok in a ho-hum way. I'll give them that. You get the idea anyway: it's all about food which as the ad notes, "isn't just fuel, but the family-gatherer, the childhood-reminder, the life-saver...", and so on. Let's not get too bothered that it looks and sounds like a lot of other ads.

It's the thinking behind it all that really disappoints. If you read this corporate blog and watch this 'making of' video, you might begin to see why.

So, the big move forward is that Tesco is now officially 'passionate' about food. You'll see this word 'passion' sprinkled about liberally in this new Tesco campaign. It alarms me somewhat: 'passion' is often the last refuge of the insincere.

Anyway, how original is it to be passionate about food? You'd expect your supermarket to be passionate about food, but as one of the Tesco clones actually admits in the corporate video (about 20 seconds in), this is something they 'haven't taken a stand on in recent history'.

No, indeed, and you'll find that instead they've been focused on profit and driving their suppliers into the ground, although this is dressed up as a focus on price and service.

The problem, in advertising terms, is that Tesco is assuming a) that this ground is vacant and b) it's one that it can credibly occupy.

It's certainly not vacant. To varying degrees, Waitrose, Sainsbury's and M&S have all demonstrated a level of foodie-ism (sorry, I can't bring myself to use the word passion) and a focus on provenance and quality for the last 10 years or so - a territory Tesco used to be present in but vacated in favour of service about 15 years ago.

Even Morrisons has got a better track record here. So how do you suddenly move into that territory?

Is it something Tesco can credibly claim? Not yet, surely. I've walked into too many Tesco stores (usually the Express or Metro variety) where the layout is poor and the presentation awful. I know new boss Philip Clarke is making a big deal about re-furbing the estate and tarting everything up but that's going to take a while.

People shop at Tesco for a lot of reasons, but not because they believe in Tesco's passion for food. So trying to persuade them that cares more about food than other retailers will be like pushing water uphill.

In a nutshell, therefore, the core proposition of this campaign looks like generic, unoriginal and difficult to achieve.

One more caveat. You'll see over time that the Tesco films will feature its staff also, one presumes, in order to demonstrate to a sceptical public that this 'passion for food' runs through the entire operation.

Hmm. Again, this makes me suspicious. Over the years I've seen a lot of 'let's-get-our-staff-into-the-ads-to-show-we're-really-human/fun/interesting' type campaigns. Some work in this genre - I think there's an honesty and freshness about the B&Q staff - is good; some, like the Halifax choir, are long past their sell-by-date. I'm pretty sure Asda's been down this road too.

I suspect that this is really a device to re-motivate the staff, who have no doubt been knocked for six by Tesco's general travails and the horse meat incident.

All in all, this is a big disappointment. Tesco and Wiedens have laboured mightily and brought forth a mouse, a dull and unoriginal one at that.

Confession: I've checked my fridge and store cupboard, and yes, there are a few Tesco-branded items there. I'm particularly 'passionate' about some of their Finest range biscuits.

Media agencies: they're getting all creative now

For years media agencies denied they were in the business of pure creativity, other than through planning and strategy - where creativity is increasingly important.

But that has changed, largely because the advent of digital has blurred the lines between what is media and what is creative. Few media agencies have the desire - or the ability - to compete with the creative agencies.

And of course, they have no wish to hire legions of copywriters and art directors, who are not only expensive but don't make for a good cultural fit.

But where they are treading on the toes of their sister agencies is in the area of branded content, or rather as commissioners of branded content.

Take this example for Healthspan, which supplies diet and vitamin supplements. Now this ad, which broke last month and features Felicity Kendal, is never going to trouble any of the awards ceremonies.

But I wouldn't imagine either Healthspan or its target audience give a monkeys about that. The target audience all admire and want to be like Ms Kendal, so as a brand ambassador she's spot on.

What's interesting about it is that it was originated and commissioned by MEC Access, the branded content unit of MEC Global and not by an established creative shop.

Having gained access to Kendal (and why waste a celeb when you've got them captive in the studio?), MEC has also shot a two-minute video with her to sit on the Healthspan website, and some yoga instruction videos, thus providing additional content.

This makes sense. Healthspan is effectively a lifestyle brand, and lifestyle brands need as much content as they can get, all the more so when you're talking yoga, vitamins and diets: there's more to say than you can get in a 30-second ad.

Now of course, this stuff could have been made by a creative agency. But it wasn't - and there's a sign in that of the way things are going.

Yes, Tesco may have a credibility issue with this message but I would argue that W&K have produced a truly engaging piece of work, pushing all of the emotional pressure points that join the heart and the stomach. The bigger piece of work, of course, is for Tesco to follow up on the principles implied by this ad with some actual policy. That is going to be tricky, as they try to balance their longstanding value and convenience proposition with responsible food sourcing and so on, but the positive thing is that Tesco have recognised the need to change and appear to be working on it.

Liam Plowman
Strategy & Propositions Manager
Yes, Liam, much will depend on Tesco's ability to 'walk the walk' instore and in relations with suppliers. They certainly succeeded triumphantly when they first introduced 'Every little helps' in the 90s. That was a service proposition and they got the staff and the stores engaged with that.

However, I think 'loving food' may be harder for them to pull off culturally, and I think they will struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition, many of whom have been 'passionate' about food for some time now.

Dominic Mills
Newsline columnist


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