Back in November 2015, Tesco debuted its first above-the-line campaign under the then freshly appointed agency BBH, which featured a fictional couple played by comedy actors Ben Miller and Ruth Jones.
Along with a teenage son, who was subsequently dropped from the Christmas 2016 campaign for being “too annoying”, the family were filmed whimsically walking through the supermarket as staff alerted them to improvements Tesco had made. The plan, it seemed, was to try to turn the characters into advertising mainstays.
However, since Christmas, the fictional couple has been noticeably absent from Tesco’s TV advertising, with it instead pushing the new ‘Food Love Stories’ campaign. The new ads focus on a wide range of fictional characters each making the most out of Tesco’s versatile food range.
When asked by Marketing Week if the couple’s near four-month absence meant they had been cancelled, Tesco’s chief customer officer Alessandra Bellini replied: “I’ve been taking a close look at everything we were doing and reviewing all those comms assets to see if they were conveying the best possible message.”
So does this mean the fictional couple are no more? Both Bellini’s reflection and inability to give a concrete answer could be telling. “Looking back, the family helped us gain positive brand momentum and led nicely into what we’re doing now. But for the immediate future our focus is all about Food Love Stories.”
Bellini only took the job as Tesco’s top marketer seven weeks ago. She previously spent 20 years at Unilever, where she most recently held the VP for food operations in North America role. She has joined a Tesco on the up, with it last week returning to annual sales growth for the first time in seven years.
Moving forward, Bellini says her biggest priority is to ensure marketing is fully embedded in day-to-day business operations and “isn’t just a separate side of the company”. She says Tesco will also focus more on social media and look to provide more regular inspiration and recipes, and will leverage the “healthiness of our food” in future campaigns.
And despite rising food inflation, Bellini says she won’t get caught up in another price war. Instead, Tesco’s marketing will be a balance between both its price and quality credentials.
She concludes: “I strongly believe in brands built on a notion of value that is the result of a balance between price and quality. I want to be careful on where the pendulum swings as the notion of offering true value can mean a lot of different things.”