John Lewis, BritBox, M&S: 5 things that mattered this week and why

From BritBox’s first ad campaign and M&S’s new value strategy, to Christmas ads from John Lewis and Sainbury’s, catch up on all the big marketing news from this week.

John Lewis and Waitrose team up in Christmas ad first

You may have seen that John Lewis and Waitrose have a joint Christmas advert out. Just in case you haven’t, it features a cutesy fire-breathing dragon called Edgar and clocks in at two and a half minutes.

Teaming John Lewis’s “thoughtful giving” with Waitrose’s “thoughtful hosting” messages, the ad follows Edgar and a young girl called Ava as they watch friends and family prepare for a Christmas feast, their good work intermittently ruined by Edgar breathing fire all over everybody.

As a sentimental showpiece, it does exactly what it set out to do. It does feel awfully long though (possibly the only thing it could ever hope to have in common with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman).

The strategy behind John Lewis and Waitrose’s first joint Christmas ad

But what did our team of marketers think? Hmmm.

Tanya Joseph, consultant and architect of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, thought it “at best a bit meh”, while Abba Newbery, CMO of Habito, said that, “I am sure there are as many people who love it as much as I don’t”.

Gemma Butler, marketing director at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, decried the brands’ decision to play it safe, “settling into their role expected by customers to set the bar for Christmas advertising, rather than raising it”.

Poor old Edgar.

READ MORE: Marketers offer their views on the John Lewis Christmas ad

M&S Food tries to shift value perceptions in new campaign

A key part of Marks & Spencer Food’s strategy under CEO Steve Rowe is to widen its appeal to families. To do that, it has invested £100m in reducing prices across a range of products, from milk to steak, bread to salmon. But so far, that message isn’t getting through to consumers.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, M&S has pretty poor value perceptions. Its ‘value’ score on the platform, which measure whether UK consumers think a brand offers good or bad value for money (not whether they are cheap) – is -3.9. That puts it way down the list of supermarkets – 29 out of 32 – in terms of value. Compare that negative number to Aldi’s 52.2 or Asda on 24.1 and you begin to see the scale of the problem.

To address this, M&S is overhauling how it talks about the value of its food. Its new ‘Re-Marks-able value’ positioning draws attention to its pricing, highlights that prices have been lowered, and talks up its quality differentiators. And it will be hard for customers to miss as it will appear almost everywhere in-store as well as across social media, as well as in a marketing campaign that is running in digital, print and social media.

It’s clear tackling value is key for M&S as it looks to widen its appeal, and as it prepares to sell online for the first time through its deal with Ocado. It must watch it doesn’t look its current customers however, ensuring it retains its focus on quality and innovation as well.

READ MORE: M&S Food looks to ‘debunk myths’ over its prices in campaign focused on value

BritBox enters the streaming wars with first ad campaign

As the streaming wars intensify, ITV is lining up its battle cry.

BritBox, a collaboration between ITV and the BBC to create an online streaming service, will show both new and classic British television and film for UK audiences.

Beginning the marketing around this, ITV is launching one of its biggest ever campaigns with the concept meant to replicate how consumers talk about stars. The ad shows different British actors – both old and new – entering in and out of doors in a box.

ITV’s director of consumer marketing Amy Townsend explains: “The script is how people talk about [British actors] in a friendly loving way. You say: ‘Oh that person in that show and you remember they were in that too’.”

It’s easy to see how BritBox got the idea and it makes sense once explained but it’s doubtful that consumers will immediately get it.

BritBox would have been better appealing to Brit’s nostalgia rather than their love of actors. The brand isn’t expecting to compete with Netflix and is instead offering a “complementary” service but even to get consumers to do that it’s going to need to amp up its marketing.

READ MORE: BritBox: This is the time to make our mark on the industry

Sainsbury’s tells ‘totally true’ Dickensian fairytale

Christmas is the time of year for presents, food, kindness and Christmas ads. Sainsbury’s is entering this year’s competition with a Dickensian fairytale that tells of the possible origin of Santa Claus.

Sainsbury’s head of broadcast marketing, Laura Boothby, feels Christmas is a chance for marketers to use their imagination and “step away a little bit” from brands marketing through the rest of the year because people are looking for something a bit different.

The ad follows a young boy who is accused of stealing an orange. In fact it was his cruel boss not the young chimney sweep who committed the crime but the boy called Nicholas gets blamed. Luckily, Mary Ann Sainsbury sees the whole event and rescues him before giving him his own sack of clementines.

He then secretly drops clementines into the socks of his chimney sweep friends before dressing in a red coat and hat, and walking off towards a nearby group of reindeer.

Boothby told Marketing Week: “It is such a tough and cluttered market and everyone is talking about the food, it’s pretty hard to differentiate on that.”

However, that’s not to say that Sainsbury’s want to be unrecognisable, which is why it has clear branding at the beginning and use of the colour orange throughout.

The full film, which runs to two minutes and 30 seconds, will only appear online, but 90- and 60-second edits will run on TV with the brand also using outdoor, digital and social.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s tells Santa origin story in Victorian Christmas ad

Facebook and its approach to political advertising

FacebookFacebook has come under mounting pressure over its attitude towards political advertising, with many criticising it for a policy that doesn’t verify political posts.

No doubt Facebook is feeling the pressure. And with political ads making up less than 0.5% of its ad revenue you’d think it might be an area it just bows out of.

But Facebook has now made clear it has no plans to do so, insisting policital advertising on its platform is “not a free for all”, emphasis that it has an approach that has long been the consensus in the UK – that political speech is not regulated.
It is also trying to highlights its transparency, including policies that mean anyone posting a political ad in the UK must be verified, political ads must be labelled, and that Facebook’s ad library will be available for seven years as a point of reference.

This isn’t enough for many, who insist Facebook should stop allowing political ads until online rules have been reformed. That doesn’t look like happening until anytime soon, however, in much the same way that politicians have little interest in reform political advertising more generally.

That leaves Facebook stuck between a rock and a hard place. But it is a situation that is much of its own making and an area in which it can, and must, do better.

READ MORE: Facebook refuses to revise micro-targeting policies ahead of the general election