John Lewis, Asda, Just Eat: Everything that matters this morning

Catch up on all the most important marketing news from the around the world with our morning round-up.

John Lewis Christmas ad campaign

John Lewis Moz the Monster Christmas ad accused of plagiarism

Children’s author and illustrator Chris Riddell has accused John Lewis of ripping off his 1986 book Mr Underbed for its Moz the Monster Christmas ad.

He said he was “struck by the similarity of the concept” and has taken to social media to share his grievance and show the likeness of the two characters, declaring “John Lewis helps themselves to my picture book”. So far the video has been watched more than 50,000 times.

Riddell told the Guardian: “The idea of a monster under the bed is by no means new but the ad does seem to bear a close resemblance to my creation – a big blue unthreatening monster who rocks the bed and snores loudly. Needless to say, I think Mr Underbed is a lot more appealing than Moz, but of course, I’m biased. I’ll be fascinated to hear John Lewis’s thoughts on the matter.”

John Lewis unveiled Moz the Monster to much fanfare last week, but not all the feedback has been positive. Senior marketers told Marketing Week its ads are “starting to feel repetitive” and feel the brand needs to be “braver and bolder”.

READ MORE: Mr Underbed author accuses John Lewis Christmas ad of plagiarism

Asda’s sales growth slows

Asda has posted a second consecutive quarter of sales growth for the three months to 30 September 2017, but outgoing CEO Sean Clarke admits the market will continue to be challenging next year.

The ‘big four’ supermarket saw like-for-like sales rise by 1.1%, as customers responded well to improvements to the in-store experience and price investments. However, it’s a slower rate of growth than it posted in August when sales grew by 1.8%.

“It’s great to see that we have now delivered our second consecutive quarter of positive like-for-like growth, and the fifth consecutive quarter of continued sales improvement. Right now, we are focused on delivering value for our customers across all of our ranges this Christmas and ensuring everyone gets a great experience, both in-store or online,” Clarke said.

“The market environment will continue to be challenging into next year but we’re well placed with clear plans and a renewed level of confidence.”

Clarke is due to step down from his role at the beginning of next year, when chief operating officer and deputy CEO Roger Burnley replaces him.

Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Asda’s owner Walmart, said on a call yesterday (16 November): “I’d like to thank Sean Clarke for the tremendous work that he has done over the past year to stabilise the business and position it for growth. Sean has done a lot for our company living in five countries over his 21-year career with Walmart.”

Just Eat gets go-ahead for Hungryhouse merger thanks to the rise of Deliveroo and UberEats

Just Eat

Just Eat’s £200m acquisition of rival Hungryhouse has been cleared by the competition authority thanks to the rise in prominence of UberEats and Deliveroo.

Given their different business models, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had previously questioned whether Deliveroo and UberEats could be considered rivals to Just Eat but it has changed its mind, stating that the services they offer are “sufficiently close substitutes” to the that provided by the merged Just Eat and Hungryhouse business.

While customers order food from Just Eat and Hungryhouse, it is delivered by staff from each individual restaurant, whereas Deliveroo and UberEats deliver the food ordered from its member restaurants.

READ MORE: Growing might of Deliveroo and UberEats convinces competition watchdog to approve Just Eat’s £200m Hungryhouse takeover

Virgin Money takes on big banks with small business account

Virgin Money is looking to take on the major players in banking with the launch of a new digital account for small businesses.

It will unveil a savings account for SMEs in January before launching a business current account later in the 2018 through which it aims to attract £5bn of deposits over the next five years.

Virgin Money said it believes the time is right for a “customer-focused disruptor” to take on the more established players in the market.

The bank had planned to launch something similar sooner but put plans for a business account on hold following the Brexit vote.

It also faces competition from app-based star-ups like Atom Bank and Monzo, but CEO Jayne-Anne Gadhia believes the brand is in a good position. She said: “Traditional banks are investing in digital transformation but are burdened by legacy systems; whilst digital startups currently lack the customer base to disrupt the sector on any significant scale.”

READ MORE: Virgin Money steps up fight against the Big Four with new business accounts

Sky Bet extends English Football league sponsorship to 2024

Sky Bet has extended its sponsorship agreement with the English Football League until the summer of 2024, in a deal worth tens of millions of pounds.

The gambling firm has been the headline sponsor for the Championship, League One and League Two football divisions since 2013 and said it would be paying 20% more than it is currently to extend the deal for an additional five years from 2019 to 2024.

As part of the deal the brand gets its logo on shirts, and rights for ‘Bet and Watch’ for some matches. It has said it will continue to discourage problem gambling through messaging on shirts.

READ MORE: Sky Bet extends English Football League sponsorship deal

Thursday, 16 November

YouTube teams up with Ticketmaster for ecommerce first

Music fans will now be able to buy tickets to gigs of artists while watching their music videos on YouTube.

In the US, YouTube has teamed up with Ticketmaster so that acts can add a list of tour dates and ticket links during relevant moments in videos.

In a blog post, a YouTube spokesperson said: “Our massive fan base paired with Ticketmaster’s global roster of concerts and security of verified tickets means we can easily connect a fan’s discovery of music on YouTube to their ability to purchase concert tickets.

“This is another way for an artist to build a deeper connection with their fans.”

Although this feature is currently only available in North America, YouTube has plans to expand it globally. Ticketmaster already promotes ticket sales on both Spotify and Facebook.

READ MORE: YouTube launches ticket sales partnership with Ticketmaster in the US

WPP ‘deliberately stalling payments’ as Christmas draws closer

According to reports, advertising giant WPP is purposely delaying payments to hundreds of suppliers. The move suggests WPP could be struggling in the crucial fourth quarter.

Frontline staff at Kantar, a major subsidiary of WPP, this week received an email instructing them to wait until next year before paying outstanding invoices.

The email reads: “Cash balances are one of the most important indicators there are of the health of a business and so every year WPP looks to maximise its cash position reported in the year-end accounts. We need to slow down payments to our creditors.”

This could potentially be a breach of the government’s Prompt Payment Code (PPC). The world’s largest advertising firm, which is led by Sir Martin Sorrell, has experienced a difficult year having suffered three revenue downgrades.

READ MORE: Kantar unit of advertising giant WPP stalling payments as Christmas looms

BBC prepares a £500m bid to take full control of UKTV

The BBC wants to take full control of UKTV, the broadcaster behind the Dave and Gold TV channels, according to city sources.

It already owns half of UKTV and a £500m bid is thought to be enough to take full control. The move would be funded should its joint venture partner, the American broadcaster Scripps, complete a $14.6bn takeover by Discovery, the owner of Eurosport.

UKTV remains highly valuable to the BBC, providing an annual dividend as well as fees for repeats of BBC programmes such as Top Gear. And by taking control of it, the BBC could increase its commercial revenues to supplement the licence fee while competing with the production firepower of streaming giants Netflix and Amazon.

READ MORE: BBC plots £500m debt-fuelled bid for full control of Dave broadcaster UKTV

Pressure mounts on Twitter amid Russian interference during Brexit

Social media giant has been urged by MPs to reveal the extend of Russian interference in Britain’s European referendum vote.

It comes as research found more than 150,000 accounts on Twitter posted around 45,000 messages about Brexit during a 48 hour period during the days leading up to the Brexit vote. The researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified more than 400 accounts operated directly by an agency linked to the Russian government.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of “sowing discord in the West”.

Damian Collins, chair of the commons select committee for digital, culture, media and sport, has appealed directly to Twitter boss Jack Dorsey, stating: “What is at stake is whether Russia has constructed an architecture which means they have thousands of accounts with which they can bombard [us] with fake news and hyper-partisan content. We need to understand how widespread it is and what the impact is on the democratic process.”

READ MORE: Twitter faces more pressure over Russian influence on Brexit vote after more accounts identified

Volkswagen invests $12bn in new-energy vehicles

Car giant Volkswagen AG has revealed it will invest over $12bn to develop a new range of low-energy vehicles for the Chinese market. It is part of a plan to lower emissions in what is the world’s largest car market.

Volkswagen says it will make the investments by 2025 and introduce 40 locally produced vehicles, with production of electric vehicles staring n the first half of next year.

Back in May, it received a green light from the Chinese government. The car brand plans to sell 400,000 units of new-energy vehicles a year by 2020 and increase that number to 1.5 million by 2025.

It isn’t the only auto maker looking to build more energy-focused cars in China. Ford recently revealed it will invest $753 million (with partner Anhui Zotye Automobile Co.) to make and sell small electric cars in Asia.

READ MORE: Volkswagen, Partners Plan $12 Billion China EVs Investment

Wednesday 15 November

Disney reveals brand sponsors for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Disney’s Lucasfilm, which produces the Star Wars films, has announced the first raft of sponsors it will be working with to promote the new film coming out later this year.

The 10 brands are: EDF Energy, Santander,, O2 Priority, Philips, Wilkinson Sword, Duracell, Volvic, Cereal Partners Worldwide and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

Each brand will launch a promotional campaign in support of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, opening in UK cinemas on 14 December.

“This film will be blazing new ground in the Star Wars saga, and we feel our partners have designed some truly compelling experiences to match,” says Lynwen Brennan, general manager of Lucasfilm.

For example, EDF Energy has teamed up with Lucasfilm and Disney for its Pretty Curious campaign, designed to encourage young girls aged 11 to 13 to think about aa career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Deliveroo drivers “are self employed”


Food delivery app Deliveroo is one of the biggest “gig economy” companies in the UK, and like Uber, has faced a backlash with its workers demanding more rights and rejecting the ‘self employed’ label.

However, yesterday (14 November) it has successfully fended off a demand from London couriers for union recognition and workers’ rights. The decision will come as a relief for Deliveroo, as Uber failed to overturn a UK employment ruling that it must give drivers workers’ rights such as minimum wage and holiday pay.

Deliveroo’s legal battle did not involve an employment tribunal, but a group of north London couriers had requested their union be recognised for the purposes of collective bargaining.

The case was widely seen as a test of whether the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), the tribunal that oversees collective bargaining law, would disagree with Deliveroo’s claim that its couriers are self-employed. However, the CAC backed Deliveroo’s argument on Tuesday, saying the couriers have the right to “substitution”, or the ability to ask someone else to deliver food on their behalf.

READ MORE: Deliveroo fends off couriers’ demands for union recognition

Twitter told to release ‘Russian troll’ tweets

A senior British MP has called on Twitter to release examples of UK-related postings linked to a Russian “troll factory”, citing concern at possible “interference by foreign actors in the democratic process of the United Kingdom”.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, said he wanted to see examples of posts about British politics after Twitter handed a list of 2,752 accounts to the US intelligence committee, all of which it had suspended for being linked to Russia.

For example, one tweeter called @SouthLoneStar posted a picture of a woman in a headscarf passing the scene of the attack with the caption: “Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam.”

Collins said it was clear the deleted accounts were linked to the St-Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, where, the Guardian has previously reported, hundreds of paid bloggers work round the clock to flood Russian internet forums, social networks and the comments sections of western publications with remarks praising the president, Vladimir Putin, and raging at the depravity and injustice of the west.

READ MORE: British MP calls on Twitter to release Russian ‘troll factory’ tweets

ASA gets tough on universities claiming to be ‘in the top 1%’

Today’s ASA rulings show one remarkable trend – six universities have had their ads banned, all for claiming to be more prestigious than others without being able to substantiate those claims.

For example, the University of Leicester got into trouble for claiming to be “a top 1% world university” and “a world ranked university” in a paid-for Facebook post. But the ASA slammed this claim, saying it was “exaggerated” and “misleading”.

Other universities that got into trouble were the University of East Anglia, University of Strathclyde, University of West London, Teesside University and Falmouth University.

But this is not the first time this has happened. Earlier this summer Reading University landed itself in hot water over its claims of being a “top 1%” world ranking university. After more complaints were submitted following that ruling, the ASA decided to launch a broader investigation, with multiple rulings coming out today. New advertising guidelines should also come into force.

A spokesman tells Marketing Week: “The rulings will be followed by updated guidance for all universities (via CAP) that will be published later this week.”

PM to double tech talent visas after Brexit

Theresa May is seeking to reassure the UK’s flourishing tech industry amid ongoing concerns over the impact of Brexit on hiring top talent.

The Prime Minister and chancellor Philip Hammond will meet with top entrepreneurs and investors today and is promising a flurry of measures to support startups across the country.

The home office will double the number of visas available for tech experts from outside the EU to come and work in the UK to 2,000. And the home secretary Amber Rudd will meet with the industry for input on making the visa process more efficient.

Access to talent has been cited by the majority of entrepreneurs as their biggest concern since the vote to leave the EU in the referendum nearly 18 months ago.

READ MORE: Theresa May doubles tech talent visas after Brexit to woo industry

Tuesday 14 November

Tesco’s £3.7bn Booker deal approved

Tesco’s £3.7bn takeover of food wholesaler Booker, owner of convenience store brands Londis and Budgens, has been provisionally cleared by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

The competition regulator said the deal, which will make Tesco the UK’s largest food business, could actually increase competition in the wholesale market and reduce prices for shoppers.

Booker, which has 441,000 catering customers and 641,000 small businesses, also supplies restaurants including Byron Burger and Prezzo. The CMA said the two businesses did not directly compete in most of their activities, particularly as Tesco does not supply goods to the catering sector.

Simon Polito, chair of the CMA’s inquiry group, said: “Our investigation has found that existing competition is sufficiently strong in both the wholesale and retail grocery sectors to ensure that the merger between Tesco and Booker will not lead to higher prices or a reduced service for supermarket and convenience shoppers.”

READ MORE: Tesco takeover of Booker gets go-ahead

Nisa shareholders narrowly approve Co-op takeover bid

Members of convenience chain Nisa have voted in favour of The Co-operative’s £137.5m takeover bid for the business.

The Co-op needed 75% of shareholders to agree to the acquisition in order for the offer to be accepted, which it achieved – just – after securing 75.79% of the vote.

The deal is now subject to regulatory approval, but if all goes well it will go through next March.

Nisa chairman Peter Hartley described the convenience store market as “unrecognisable” from when the chain launched 40 years ago.

He added: “Co-op will add buying power and product range to our offering, while respecting our culture of independence.”

Sainsbury’s expressed an interest in buying the Nisa business earlier this year, shortly after Tesco acquired Booker but put its talks on hold in August.

READ MORE: Nisa members have voted in favour of Co-op’s takover offer

British Gas eyes European roll out for Hive

British Gas is set to expand its Hive smart home offer to European customers early next year after securing a major deal with one of Italy’s largest household suppliers Eni.

Hive will be offered to the Italian gas giant’s 8 million retail customers in a move that British Gas owner Centrica hopes will see it fight off competition in the connected home market from rival such as Google’s Nest thermostat and German company Tado. Hive smart home devices are currently installed in 660,000 homes in the UK and US.

British Gas is looking to forge relationships with other European suppliers to push the expansion of Hive further into the European market.

Hive products will be available in Italy during the first quarter of 2018, with other markets due to open throughout the rest of the year.

READ MORE: British Gas warms to Europe with Hive ‘smart home’ expansion

Channel 4 to offer ‘100% targeted’ advertising on All 4

Channel 4

Channel 4 will be upping the level of ad personalisation it offers All 4 viewers, across all platforms in 2018. That’s because from next year mandatory registration will be required across all platforms, including mobile, tablet and games consoles, as well as TV services such as YourView, meaning it will have first party data on all viewers of the on-demand service.

That means it will be able to target all advertising based on viewers’ age, gender, location, interests and behaviour.

Given the level of first party data it will have, Channel 4 is also looking at opportunities to enhance its targeted advertising offer on linear TV. It is currently talking to a range of potential partners including Sorenson Media, YouView and Sky AdSmart .

Jonathan Lewis, head of digital and partnership innovation said: “From next year every All 4 advertising opportunity will be personalised or targeted which has proven a success for brands reflected in our double-digit year-on-year revenue growth for the last several years.”

Ikea UK sales hit £1.8bn

Ikea, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the UK this year, achieved sales of £1.8bn for the year ending 31 August 2017. The Swedish retailer’s UK sales increased 5.8% during that period, its sixth consecutive year of UK growth.

The company opened stores in Reading and Sheffield recently, with two more planned in Exeter and Greenwich, which will add another 850 jobs. It has also revamped its website, with online now accounting for 15% of sales.

READ MORE: Ikea sees annual UK sales top £1.8bn

Monday, 13 November

Alibaba breaks own Singles’ Day sales record


Alibaba has hit record sales for China Singles’ Day of $25.4bn (£19.2bn), surpassing last year’s high within just 13 hours. Some $1bn (£758m) alone was spent in the first two minutes after midnight on 11 November, with customers spending 40% more on Alibaba than last year.

Held annually on 11 November, Singles’ Day is now the world’s largest online shopping event, exceeding the combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US. More than 1.5 billion parcels are expected to be delivered over the next six days to hundreds of millions of Chinese shoppers who took advantage of the discount online shopping event.

To publicise the count down to Singles’ Day Alibaba flew celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams and Maria Sharapova to Shanghai to perform on stage at a televised gala.

Going forward it is expected that retailers outside China will ramp up their efforts to tap into this shopping festival, as data from PCA Predict shows that 27% of purchases made in China on Single’s Day 2016 were from international brands.

READ MORE: Alibaba: Sales during online retail bonanza Singles’ Day hit new record as they smash $25bn mark

Co-op takeover of Nisa faces resistance


The Co-op’s £143m takeover of convenience chain Nisa is facing resistance from shareholders, causing fears that the supermarket giant might not secure the necessary 75% share of votes.

The 60,000 shares in question are owned by Nisa members, who each hold between one and 250 shares. Last month the 1,190 shopkeepers who own the business were advised by the Nisa board to accept the deal, which includes £20,000 up front as well as deferred payments worth more than £410,000 for those who own a maximum 250 shares.

Some of Nisa’s 1,190 members are entrepreneurs running small chains, giving the business a network of 2,400 stores. The issue of independence is a sticking point for some, as according to reports in the Guardian, Nisa members are divided into those fiercely protective of the business’s independence and others who feel the chain needs more scale given Tesco’s recent acquisition of convenience wholesaler Booker.

READ MORE: Co-op takeover of Nisa faces resistance before crunch shareholder vote

Ex-Asda boss Andy Clarke joins food tech startup

Former Asda CEO Andy Clarke has joined the board of food tech startup Spoon Guru, a year after leaving the supermarket retailer.

Clarke will become non-executive chairman at the London-based start-up, whose technology allows consumers to search retailers’ produce ­according to their specific dietary needs. Since launching in 2015, Spoon Guru has worked with Tesco to integrate its search tools into the retailer’s online site.

According to reports in The Telegraph, since leaving Asda in June 2016 after 20 years at the supermarket, Clarke has been working on building a “portfolio ­career”.

READ MORE: Ex Asda boss Andy Clarke joins food tech start-up Spoon Guru

Trouva secures $10m investment


Fast growing startup Trouva has secured $10m (£7.6m) in funding from the backers of Farfetch, Asos, Etsy and Secret Escapes.

The ecommerce platform for independent bricks-and-mortar retailers received investment from BGF Ventures, the UK’s largest venture fund, alongside Index Ventures (investors in Farfetch, ASOS and Etsy) and Octopus Investments (backers of Secret Escapes and Graze).

Named as one of Marketing Week’s 100 Disruptive Brands in 2017, Trouva has grown by 1,509% over the past 18 months alone.

The startup debuted its first TV advertising campaign on 1 November on Sky, after beating off stiff competition from 200 fellow startups to win a fully funded campaign created by media agency All Response Media. Running until the end of the month, the ‘Trouva Street’ ad concept showcases a selection of the 350 boutiques signed up to the platform.

Turnover up 4% at UK’s top 50 pubs and bars

The UK’s top 50 bars and pubs saw turnover rise by 4% to £11.7bn in the 12 months to October.

Data from commercial lender Ortus Secured Finance shows turnover amongst the top 50 has grown by £1.6bn over the past six years, due in part to the growing popularity of craft beer, record prices for pints and the cost cutting efficiencies driven by mergers and acquisitions in the sector.

However as the top 50 chains prosper, fears are that smaller pubs could be hit by staff shortages post-Brexit and a possible rise in business rates following the Autumn Budget.

Pubs and bars will also need to invest in the real life experience if they are to take on the growing popularity of food delivery services such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo, which are encouraging consumers to entertain at home.

READ MORE: UK’s top 50 pubs and bars turnover rises 4% to £11.7bn