Argos opts for emotional strategy as the might of Amazon looms large

Argos is featuring its sister brand Sainsbury's for the first time in a campaign telling the story of a family of five setting off on their summer holiday - in a Chinook military helicopter.

The first instalment of a new campaign, "You’re good to go", launches today, and brings a touch of the action movie to a situation familiar to many. 

In one scene, the mum of the family is lowered from the aircraft on a harness to collect a barbeque from one of the 200 Argos branches now housed within larger Sainsbury's stores.

Created by The & Partnership London, the ad will be followed in the summer by a second, that sees the same parents once again dig out their trusty Chinook to get the kids ready to go back to school.

It was created by Dan Dehlavi and Hayley Hammond, and directed by Matthijs van Heijningen through MJZ. The media agency is PHD.

The campaign represents a significant change of tack from last summer, when Argos ran 80 different 10-second spots over a 100-day period in the "80 Days of Argos" campaign.

Sainsburys Argos marketing director Gary Kibble joined the company last June, after "80 days" began. 

The new campaign, he said, aimed to address a long-standing issue with how the brand is regarded.

"When you talk to customers the one thing they talk about is the rational reason they choose to shop" Kibble said. "But there’s no real emotional hook to the brand. One of the things I wanted to do was get right into the heart of why it exists.

While he said the brand was well known for its speed and convenience, the task now was to communicate the "very clear emotional brand benefit we bring to customers – that is that Argos moves at the speed of the customer's life, so they feel ready for everything."

Don't just hold up the mirror

The campaign’s creative idea is about visualising a common observation among parents – that when you have children, events like getting ready for a holiday become like a military operation.

Kibble said he had learned from a previous role as group brand director at Littlewoods owner Shop Direct that, while demonstrating an understanding of the challenges people face was effective, "what customers don’t want is for the mirror to be held up – someone saying, this is how tough life is for you". Too many ads do exactly that, he added.

Instead, audiences respond best to "a bit of light-hearted fun" that still demonstrates understanding, while showing how problems can be solved.

During the frantic 60 seconds of the new TV ad, the family visits an Argos located within a branch of Sainsbury’s – marking the first time the supermarket has featured in an Argos campaign.

With most shoppers now aware of Argos’s relationship with Sainsbury’s, the communication task has evolved, Kibble said, to "illustrating the unrivalled convenience we can now offer customers thanks to our continued roll-out of Argos stores inside Sainsbury’s supermarkets."

Simple, smart, human and sparky

Asked what he saw as the biggest challenge to Argos in the current climate, Kibble acknowledged the elephant in the room: "The sheer size and power of Amazon".

The online giant has no doubt played a part in the string of retail businesses that have gone under or hit rough waters so far this year, including Toys R Us, Maplin and New Look.

"The competitive pressures in the market are as strong as I’ve ever felt in 20 years," Kibble said. But he added that the retail businesses that had suffered often showed a "failure to transform" – something he is adamant will not be an issue for Argos.

In part this is because of the four customer experience hallmarks – simple, smart, human, sparky –  that govern the human face of the brand that Amazon obviously lacks.

"Argos as a business is really built on what we call technology with a human touch," Kibble said. "While I acknowledge that they [Amazon] are naturally a competitive threat, I’m confident Argos offers something unique."