Morrisons needs new ad agency Publicis London to make its food expertise engaging

As Publicis London takes the reigns as Morrisons’ creative ad agency, it must ensure it taps into chief executive David Potts’s vision of a supermarket that is seen as both a “shop keeper and a food maker”.

Morrisons staff play a central in its Christmas ad campaign

Over the last few years, Morrisons has been arguably the biggest casualty as many consumers have abandoned the supermarkets in pursuit of a cheaper shop at Aldi and Lidl.

Last year, for example, it reported a 52% drop in annual profits to £345m – its worst results in eight years. The Bradford-based retailer has also dropped out of the FTSE 100 list of the UK’s most valuable companies in December.

Many have argued that its failures have been infact down to an unclear brand strategy. High profile ad campaigns featuring celebrities such as Ant and Dec by former agency MullenLowe (which recently changed its name from DLKW Lowe) fell flat, while constantly changing straplines – such as introducing the ‘I’m cheaper’ branding only to scrap it three months later – muddied the branding waters.

To address the advertising mistakes of the past, Potts has been very clear on his vision for the supermarket’s future messaging. He told Marketing Week at a results briefing on Tuesday (11 January): “Moving forward, when we think about the brand and how the identity of the company can grow in confidence it is around being a food maker as well as a shop keeper.

“The company enjoys creating ads with our own people,” he explained. Pointing towards Morrisons’ Christmas campaign, he added: “The butcher, the baker, the fishmonger offering advice to customers in the recent campaign just felt more authentic.”

finished morrisons
Former Morrisons’ CEO Dalton Philips enlisted Ant and Dec to talk up its food-making credentials. The resulting ads were panned by critics.

However, hitting this brief won’t be easy for Publicis and Morrisons’ newly appointed marketing director Andy Atkinson.

Translating in-store food expertise such as bakeries and fish mongers to above the line marketing is notoriously difficult. The average man on the street struggles to be as engaged by a 60-second commercial about the uniqueness of the Morrisons supply chain amid flashy distractions of tear jerker space epics and CGI cats.

That’s not to say Morrisons’ approach to a “different kind of retailing” and making in-store food expertise a focal point isn’t the right one. If this week’s surprisingly positive festive numbers are anything to go by, it is at least starting to offer shoppers a compelling reason to shop at Morrisons again.

But translating that strategy into viewer-friendly TV and social media campaigns won’t be easy.

And Publicis, which is unlikely to get the same big budgets as MullenLowe thanks to the more ad-sceptical nature of Potts, will now have to make food-making at Morrisons seem sexy. Let’s just hope they don’t ask Ant and Dec for any advice.

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