The timing of the announcement was a shock. While speculation was rife that Tesco would look at its ad business, in the end it gave it to BBH without a pitch.
However, it has a whole new team in place – none of the marketing bosses that were there at the time of W+K’s appointment are still there.
Tesco has a new chief executive in Dave Lewis with an extensive background in marketing, having headed up Unilever’s personal care business. It also has a new marketing boss, Robin Terrell.
His appointment as head of customer was widely seen as a move to create a more joined-up customer experience at Tesco. Lewis told Marketing Week at the time that his role would help the brand “link up” all its businesses – from Clubcard to Tesco Mobile to Tesco Bank.
An integrated approach
The decision to shift to BBH is a further sign of this strategy. BBH can offer Tesco a more integrated branding solution than W+K.
In addition to its responsibility for advertising, BBH will also oversee CRM. It is part of the Publicis Groupe which offers synergies that W+K, as an independent, can’t.
That will ensure that the way Tesco communicates with shoppers, whether in its ad campaigns or more personally via newsletters and emails, is consistent. It isn’t hard to envisage that in the future this could also include other areas such as shopper marketing.
BBH has precedent here. Having won the BA creative account it went on to win its direct and loyalty marketing businesses too.
Another of BBH’s (now former) clients is Waitrose. The supermarket has seen huge success with its marketing since BBH was appointed to the account in 2011 by focusing on its core points of differentiation.
It has created a distinctive brand in the grocery sector by promoting its “unique values” such as its employee-owned set-up. Both its Christmas campaign and a brand campaign launched early last year focused on how that structure helps its deliver better service.
Tesco has an even bigger job to do. Its brand reputation has been hit by profit warnings and accounting scandals and it has been out kilter with the rest of the market on price and service.
Lewis has begun to make changes to improve those areas – from implementing price cuts to introducing more in-store staff.
The big decision now is to decide what Tesco stands for in a rapidly changing and hugely competitive supermarket sector. It remains by far the biggest player but the brand’s values have been lost.
Much of the work W+K did was tactical rather than strategic. They launched the “Love Every Mouthful” campaign but under Tesco’s previous bosses were not given much scope to overhaul the brand image or flex their creative muscle.
It is likely BBH will be given the chance to conduct a full review of the Tesco brand, with a review of whether “Every Little Helps” is still the correct tagline likely.
Lewis knows BBH well from his time working at Unilever – the agency holds the Axe (Lynx in the UK) account globally and Neil Munn, who will head up BBH’s Tesco team, also used to work at Unilever.
Lewis is putting brand reputation and marketing in the hands of an agency he knows and trusts, leaving him free to focus on turning round the troubled business.