NEWS: Sainsbury’s confirms AMV hold on business

Sainsbury’s has vowed to keep faith with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in the battle to regain supremacy over Tesco, its arch-rival in the supermarket wars.

Sainsbury’s has vowed to keep faith with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in the

battle to regain supremacy over Tesco, its arch-rival in the supermarket


In the face of growing speculation that Sainsbury’s pounds 40 million

account will have a new home before the end of the year, Kevin McCarten,

the company’s marketing director, this week gave the agency a blunt and

unequivocal vote of confidence.

‘Everybody wants to know when I’m going to ditch the buggers. But it

ain’t going to happen,’ he insisted.

But McCarten, the former Woolworths trading director who has spent

almost five months reviewing the company’s marketing strategy, said

future advertising would strike a more even balance between price and

quality messages.

He also predicted a drop in Sainsbury’s promotional budget - although he

declined to say by how much - as advertising becomes more tightly


McCarten gave a strong hint that Sainsbury’s may be ready to abandon its

long-running series of celebrity recipe commercials which have been

criticised for boosting sales at rival stores as much as Sainsbury’s


‘We haven’t decided not to continue running them,’ McCarten said.

‘They’ve provided us with a quality image, driven sales of new products

and given our customers a strong sense of belonging. But we are looking

at alternatives.’

Rumours of a split with Abbott Mead have been fuelled by Sainsbury’s

heavy emphasis on price-led advertising since Christmas. But McCarten

said the agency had consistently proved its ability to deliver.

‘It would be ludicrous to say a review has never crossed my mind,’ he

admitted. ‘But our brand has been well looked after by the agency and

I’m in the business of building long-term relationships. We’ve had a

good relationship with Abbott Mead and I’ve every intention of

continuing it.’

A more balanced advertising programme will coincide with a series of

initiatives that will give the highest priority to customer service.

‘The price campaign has established us as a more aggressive competitor

and shown our determination to give customers what they want,’ McCarten

said. ‘It will continue and will be refreshed while we begin to get

across our choice and quality message.’ But he refused to be drawn on

whether or not Sainsbury’s will follow its rivals by launching a loyalty


Sainsbury’s strategy would revolve around offering the highest quality,

a superior choice and competitive prices, McCarten promised. ‘We’ve not

delivered on these as well as we could,’ he admitted. ‘Last year was

disappointing. Now we intend to do something about it.’

Feature, page 28

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