Asda boss dismisses 'sexist' Christmas ad complaints

Asda chief executive Andy Clarke has come out in defence of its Christmas campaign, claiming it is "a great ad" after the ad watchdog launched an investigation into it.

Clarke, speaking at the unveiling of the company's third-quarter results, claimed it was never the intention to offend and added that Asda customers supported the campaign, which has been accused of sexism against women and men, and has attracted more than 180 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

He said: "The first thing to say is did we intend to offend anybody? Of course not. The majority of people who shop at our stores are mums, and mums have said to us either individually or in listening groups that it is a great reflection of how the pace of Christmas can take over when you are in a busy household."

Clarke's comments came as the supermarket revealed like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, were up 0.3% for the 13 weeks ending 29 September. Asda increased its market share by 0.1% to 17.5% during the same period, according to research from Kantar.

Judith McKenna, chief operating officer at Asda, took the opportunity to describe the brand's multi-channel offering ahead of a Christmas that she believes will be a "tipping point" for online retail.

Asda's online sales have almost doubled in value since 2010, when it revealed the channel was driving around half-a-billion pounds in revenue.

Mobile is a particular concern for Asda, with McKenna claiming that two-thirds of mothers who shop at Asda have a smartphone, which is above the 50% national average for smartphone penetration.

A year ago, virtually no Asda online orders came via mobile. Now the supermarket is claiming some 16% of online orders are coming from mobile devices.

Asda is focusing on getting the basics right as it seeks to "leverage" the talent, innovation and technology of parent company Walmart.

McKenna said: "Bells and whistles are seriously over-rated when you are time-poor. Our strategy is very much not about being tetchy – it is about being practical."

Asda claims it has the most engagement of the UK major grocers on Facebook, citing a post it made about retro toy Furby receiving 80,000 "likes" and driving 10,000 click-throughs to the Asda Direct site.

Despite its popularity on Facebook – its fans have grown from 70,000 to 500,000 since the start of the year – Asda is hinting it will not commit to selling directly on the social network.

McKenna said: "It isn't just about selling. That is the really important thing about the way we use Facebook and actually we need to guard against being constantly selling with it, because what it is really about is this relationship we build and the engagement over a period of time."

Asda is also planning to launch a TV ad before Christmas promoting its click-and-collect offering for its general merchandise range.

The retailer plans to roll out click-and-collect to 100 stores by the end of the year and an additional 100 next year, while it will also launch a grocery pick-up point at its first Asda Living store, which does not sell food in-store.

In addition, it will also experiment with opening its first standalone click-and-collect store on a business park and will trial click-and-collect at some petrol forecourts.

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