Costa Coffee: the creative viewpoint from Pitch

By Seb Joseph

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Insight does not just feed Costa’s commercial strategy, it also drives the creative strategy. Karmarama chief executive Ben Bilboul, who has worked with Costa since 2006, says that along with insight, the brand’s advertising is built around innovation and challenging category expectations.

The agency was tasked with helping the chain win the high street coffee wars by building preference in a market that was traditionally convenience driven. Bilboul explains: “Our focus was how we build preference for Costa Coffee.

“Although we used customer insight to evolve the campaign, we also needed to do something creatively that would challenge people’s preconceptions about coffee.”

The resulting “seven out of 10” campaign was heavily investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency following complaints from Starbucks, but these were dismissed. “Once we realised we were going to base the concept around coffee credentials, there was no point in watering that message down,” says Bilboul. “That’s why we went for protest-style print ads and a provocative but fun TV spot.”

The TV ad featuring monkeys drew criticism from some animal charities. Bilboul maintains the brand’s creative strategy needs to keep its challenging nature, especially as Costa is the first in its market to advertise on TV. Using TV allowed the agency to dramatise the campaign’s concept in a way that print ads couldn’t, he says.

He notes: “The best challenger brands are thought-leaders – they set the agenda. By focusing its advertising strategy around building preference, Costa has done that.”

To read about how Marketing Week Engage Awards 2011 Agency of the Year Karmarama developed the creative behind Costa Coffee’s latest Costa Light campaign and more, visit the Pitch blog.

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