John Lewis is to turn the screws on its rivals Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and House of Fraser by launching its biggest ever advertising campaign on Friday. The department store said the £6m advertising campaign over the next six weeks aims to "reposition" its famous "never knowingly undersold" strapline.
Craig Inglis, the marketing director at John Lewis, said the series of ads show a woman moving through the key stages of her life, such as from giving birth to becoming a grandmother, and how she interacts with John Lewis and the "DNA" of its brand.
The first advertisements will be in the break of ITV's Coronation Street on Friday and will also be shown alongside other programmes, such as Channel 4's Glee, and the celebrity chef Marco Pierre White's Marco's Kitchen Burnout on ITV. The advertisements will also appear in newspapers.
Mr Inglis said: "We are repositioning 'never knowingly undersold' in the market. It has been around 85 years. Over the last five to six years, it has become known as just a price promise and it was never intended like that. It had become slightly legalistic."
He added: "We have allowed it to become that and we want to repackage it and make it clear what it is all about: quality, service and price."
The launch may raise concerns at Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Debenhams, given that John Lewis outperformed them at Christmas in terms of sales and has enjoyed a strong start to its new financial year. For the 10 weeks to 10 April, John Lewis's sales are 17 per cent ahead of last year. Mr Inglis described its biggest-ever spend on an advertising campaign as a "significant investment", adding: "It shows we are upping the ante."
Despite the challenging outlook for retailers, Mr Inglis said that consumers are looking for value, based on both price and quality. "It feels like our time. It feels like 'never knowingly undersold' has never been more appropriate."
But he said the high street still faces a tough second half of the year, given the pressure on consumer spend and the uncertainty over any measures the next government may take to reduce the deficit. "I think the reality is that we are still facing a very changeable and unpredictable future and we are still expecting it to be difficult," he said.
The TV ads use a re-recorded version of Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman", sung by the Guillemots. The campaign was produced by the communications agency Adam & Eve, which also did John Lewis's Christmas campaign.