ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Tesco

Once you know that one pound in every eight spent in UK shops is spent at Tesco, you could be forgiven for wondering how much difference Tesco's advertising now makes to its fortunes. How much propulsion can a single spot or campaign really add to this already charging juggernaut?

Of course, as always, the truth is that great advertising can help keep a great brand at the top of its game, and bad advertising can do untold damage to even the most seemingly resilient brand. And Tesco has a long heritage of great advertising that has most certainly helped to build the retailer into the powerhouse that it is today.

Tesco and its advertising agency, Lowe, simply have a knack of getting it right. So it's a real treat to look back at some of the old ads.

It was in the early 90s that Tesco launched an ambitious strategy to move on from the traditional "pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap" supermarket positioning. The programme of store upgrades and better quality product lines was deliciously captured in the brilliant "quest for quality" campaign.

At the time, the great thing about the ads was their difference; they broke with the conventions of supermarket advertising. The ads made the ingredients bit-part players in a bigger story, but a story that left you in no doubt about what mattered to Tesco.

In a genius bit of casting, Lowe picked Dudley Moore to play a Tesco buyer whose thankless mission was to source the best free-range chickens (1). The result was one of those ads that quickly becomes a classic, not just in adland but in the real world too.

The beauty of the ad lies, ultimately, in the script - which paints a delightful picture of Moore's do-or-die quest and interweaves it with the richness of rural France, adding a very British style of humour that has become a trademark of Tesco's ads.

Having set out Tesco's quality credentials and very definitely marked a new approach to Tesco's advertising, Lowe then turned its attention to capturing the in-store experience. The shift coincided with a new programme of customer-friendly devices that Tesco was introducing to make the whole shopping experience less stressful and more rewarding.

Enter Dotty, the shopper from hell (2). Dotty, played for a decade by Prunella Scales, was a product of the real experiences of the Tesco staff - a combination of all their most awkward customers. The aim was to show that nothing was too much trouble for the Tesco team, and Dotty tested them to their limits, even returning a fish because of its sullen expression.

Just when you thought the Dotty campaign was nearing its end, there was one last flash of brilliance - a Christmas campaign co-starring Roger Moore, which had Dotty in full vamp mode before revealing she'd fallen asleep on Christmas Day in front of the Bond movie.

The campaign has now moved on again, this time hitting back at the competition with a new focus on price, quality and the entire range of products to be found inside the average Tesco store (4, 5, 6). Moving on from Dotty and tackling this complex new brief could have resulted in - at best - confusion. But the latest work has, so far, managed the transition with a simplicity and flair that certainly does not betray what has gone before, all without losing that well-crafted sense of humour. And one in eight British pounds say their owners prefer it.

1. TESCO Title: Dudley Moore 'chickens' Agency: Lowe Year: 1990 2. TESCO Title: Cheerful sole Agency: Lowe Year: 1995 3. TESCO Title: Roger Moore Agency: Lowe Year: 2003 4. TESCO Title: Eggs Agency: Lowe Year: 2004 5. TESCO Title: Carrots Agency: Lowe Year: 2005 6. TESCO Title: Pricechecker Agency: Lowe Year: 2005

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