VCCP needs more than 'slebs' to get the tills ringing
A view from Jeremy Lee

VCCP needs more than 'slebs' to get the tills ringing

A bit like Dale Winton, Asda's marketing director, Chris McDonough, presided over his own version of Supermarket Sweep that saw agency contestants whittled down from nine to five to three to two to VCCP.

Over by the sour-grape counter, some of the more cynical industry gossips speculated that VCCP’s appointment to the £100 million account smacked of inevitability – McDonough had hired the shop during his time at Molson Coors. But such is the nature of strong client relationships, for which VCCP should be credited for developing where some rivals have failed.

Aside from this, recent events have shown that only a foolish client would move their business just for the sake of it without checking out the spec – and VCCP has real strength in retail business, given its 12-year history with its founding client, O2. It seems unlikely that this appointment – which, by our estimate, instantly propels the agency to an astonishing second place on the Nielsen rankings table behind Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO – will be short-lived.

Nonetheless, VCCP, much like most agencies that handle a supermarket, faces significant challenges if it is to reverse the decline in sales that correspond to the rise of the low-budget upstarts Aldi and Lidl.

Only a foolish client would move their business just for the sake of it without checking out the spec

The rather hackneyed old adage used to go: "Retail is detail." In reality, this seems to have changed to "retail is celebrity" as agencies turn to one of the more obvious remedies to a brand’s woes and one that is guaranteed to research well and score highly in recognition tests. Sadly, however, wheeling out a celeb doesn’t always translate into a ringing endorsement at the tills.

In the most recent three-month period, Asda’s market share continued to drop (as did Tesco and The Co-op) at the expense of Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose, while Morrisons stood still. The real challenge that the big four supermarkets now face is that price is no longer a differentiator but is now merely a hygiene factor that the discounters Aldi and Lidl will beat virtually every time while the likes of Waitrose will price-match. In short, given this stasis, if ever there was a sector that was crying out for some big advertising ideas (of which more on page 19) to create some real difference between the players, then it is the supermarkets.

There is one player bucking the trend big time, though – Sainsbury’s through-the-line sponsorship of last year’s Paralympic Games, with advertising created by AMV, is credited with helping to provide strong sales momentum that continues one year after the event finished. This was a truly big idea that finally replaced the weary and tiresome Jamie Oliver. While it’s too early to say what creative idea won it for Asda, something pretty big might be required to get shoppers going wild in the aisles.