Asda takes on the ad blockers as it focuses digital resources on native content

Asda has been on a journey over the past nine months to embrace a more content-led digital advertising strategy that aims to make its marketing more relevant to consumers and therefore more effective.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Asda’s senior director of digital advertising Chris Chalmers said the supermarket has increased its investment in content and that it is “laser focused” on social, mobile and video.

“The rise of ad blocking and banner blindness has forced advertisers to rethink how we advertise digitally. The proliferation of content and native advertising is a key component part of that,” he said.

“In summer last year we moved to embrace a more content-led advertising strategy and we have scaled that over the last year.

“We are better investing in content that engages with customers where they are in a native browsing environment so that it resonates.”

Chris Chalmers, senior director of digital advertising, Asda

The first “significant” example of its new strategy is its Easter campaign, which features a giant chocolate hen that lays giant chocolate eggs. A TV ad shows the hen laying eggs for customers, while press activity pushes product.

Online, however, Asda has taken a different approach. It created a spoof American news channel – News HD – and a series of 20 second videos that it has seeded on its own website and across new sites using ad tech provider Teads. It has also supported the activity on social media and via email.

“The campaign is based on the customer insight that Easter is about fun and family time so humour is the anchor of our video strategy. We are mindful of not being intrusive because then you are not authentic, so the type of content produced is relevant to the platforms. The content we created was newsworthy in terms of style hence seeding it on news site,” he said.

Chalmers admits that historically Asda would have delivered the TV creative first and then looked at how it works on digital but is now taking a “channel agnostic” approach.

“[The digital team] is now upfront in the creative process. It is testament to our TV team that we have some brilliant content to work with and our aim is to tease, launch and extend the campaign through the digital ecosystem,” he explained.

As a result, Asda is now spending a greater proportion of its marketing budget in digital, although Chalmers would not be drawn on how much. However he did say he believes Asda is “ahead of market trends”.

Judging effectiveness

Asda is currently struggling, with sales down 5.8% in the Christmas trading quarter. That represented its sixth straight quarter of sales declines as it faces competition from the discounters as well as a resurgent Tesco and Morrisons.

Chalmers said it is too early to tell if its digital marketing strategy is having an impact on sales, but did say it is having an effect on consumer sentiment towards the brand.

Asda uses listening tools to understand sentiment on social networks and said it has achieved net positive sentiment for the Easter campaign alone of 33% – a record for the brand.

Asda created a spoof Amercian news channel and a series of 20 second videos that it then seeded on news sites
Asda created a spoof Amercian news channel and a series of 20 second videos that it then seeded on news sites

That is backed up by figures from YouGov BrandIndex that show how over the past month Asda has seen an increase in its Buzz score – a measure of the positive and negative things said about a brand – of 6.9 points, moving it up from 26th in a list of the top supermarket brands to ninth. Its Impression and Quality scores are also up.

Chalmers said its video engagement rates are also “over-averaging” by one percentage point, while it has seen “unprecedented” open rates for emails sent out supporting the campaign, with a record 1.3 million email opens, although he wouldn’t give a figure for the open rate.

He said the early signs of success suggest Asda is implementing the right recovery strategy but that the supermarket will still not rest on its laurels.

“Our advertising now has to entertain, inspire or inform. Advertising has got to work much harder than it used to have to be relevant in the channels we are using to advertise digitally,” he concluded.

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