WH Smith chief axes ‘too polite’ advertising strategy

Newly appointed WH Smith marketing chief Stephen Clarke has rejected the retailer’s “polite” advertising of the past and has set out to “sell more stuff” by focusing on product and price.

Clarke says WH Smith will use advertising that “cuts through” and is more effective in driving sales. He claims that last year’s Christmas campaign, created by Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO, was “too polite”.

The new campaign, the first major work from newly appointed Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, will feature a puppet bookworm and his friends, each representing one of the retailer’s product areas. The humorous ads, which use the line “more of what you really want”, are aimed at adults and children. They will be focused around price-led product messages that will be carried through to the stores.

Media strategy has also changed. The retailer has this year invested in millions of 16-page flyers to be distributed to homes, in place of the 100-page colour Christmas magazine that was available in stores last year. Also, instead of using ads in colour newspaper supplements and magazines, the retailer will use mono print ads with price-led messages to secure stand-out.

There will also be television advertising on terrestrial and Sky channels. The Christmas campaign will run for ten weeks from October 20, longer than last year’s six-week push, with newly appointed Carat handling media buying and planning.

The Christmas trading period will be crucial for WH Smith, which is expected to reveal losses on Thursday of more than &£100m for the year ending August 2004, after exceptional items.

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