Tesco dumps Dotty for price-based Lowe ads

Tesco this week cast aside Dotty, its famous advertising icon, in favour of new work presenting the supermarket giant as straight-talking and price-conscious.

The blitz kicks off with ten TV spots running in the next five weeks, as well as full-page ads in every national daily.

However, Tesco insists that Dotty, the customer from hell played by Prunella Scales, is not being pensioned off and may return, perhaps during the run-up to Christmas.

The campaign, developed in secret with Lowe over several months, evolves Tesco's value-for-money pledge without losing the quality message.

The strategy is articulated in a series of what Lowe calls "disarmingly honest" 20-second spots. One points out that Tesco mushrooms may look ugly but it does not matter because they are going straight into a steak and kidney pie.

Another promotes its range of potatoes - from bog-standard to expensively packaged varieties.

The ads break with Tesco's tradition of featuring famous faces, although all feature celebrity voiceovers including Martin Clunes, Timothy Spall, Caroline Quentin, Sue Johnson and Ray Winstone.

Tesco denies the campaign is a response to the massive buying power of its Wal-Mart-owned rival Asda, but is the development of an eight-year-old strategy.

"Prices are why customers will choose one supermarket over another," Ian Crook, the Tesco brand communications director, said. "It's just as true for people with high disposable incomes as it is for those finding it tough to feed their families and it is why we have invested a lot of money in getting prices as low as they are."

Paul Weinberger, the Lowe chairman, who has creative control of the Tesco business, said: "Price has always been important to Tesco. Now we have found a way of talking about it while juxtaposing it with a quality message."

Weinberger acknowledged that Dotty was "a hard act to follow" but insisted the new campaign was more reflective of Tesco's growing business.

The ads have been created amid speculation about the future of Tesco's £37 million account at Lowe, which it has held for almost 15 years.

However, Crook insisted the business was staying put. "You don't jettison agencies on a whim," he said. "We've not been unsettled by events at Lowe and there are people there who know Tesco better than some of our own staff."

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