Will the appointment of VCCP Blue signal a turnaround for Asda?

This week Asda appointed VCCP Blue to its estimated £100m ad account, in a bid to overhaul its marketing and maintain its share of the supermarket sector, which has been under increasing competition from discounters like Aldi and Lidl at one end of the scale, and upmarket supermarkets like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s at the other.

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Asda’s share of UK grocery spending fell to 17 per cent in the 12 weeks to 7 July, down from 17.3 per cent a year earlier, according to Kantar Worldpanel data, and sales for stores open for a year or more increased just 0.7 per cent in Asda’s second fiscal quarter, the three months to 5 July.

Chief marketing officer Stephen Smith is hoping that a new agency will bring “new ideas’”and “new thinking” to help break through the cluttered marketplace and create innovative and creative communications every day, not just month to month or campaign to campaign.

At a recent briefing for Asda’s Christmas plans Smith said the brand would be placing a greater focus on product in this year’s fourth quarter, showcasing ranges such as its Butcher’s Selection meats and Extra Special party food and wine, in order to highlight the quality and authority of its goods.

“When you are known for price you have to do something really different to also be known as a brand for quality,” he said.

“We’ve been winning more than 140 awards in wine [for example]. We are getting noticed for quality but as a company we are so focused on price. Although it can sometimes feel a bit like puffery, we are winning awards across our entire portfolio and we have to find a way to get that message across in a commercial way and give ourselves credit for it.”

The fourth quarter needs to be a strong one for Asda, especially in light of its ad campaign last year. Created by agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which VCCP Blue will now replace, the campaign featured a harassed mother preparing for Christmas Day. It attracted more than 600 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority that it was ‘sexist’ and that it reinforced negative gender stereotypes.

With a new agency and strategy, it looks hopeful that this year’s campaign will get a better reception.

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