Peter York on Ads: Supermarket giant fails to persuade people like us

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The Independent Online

At Christmas, Tesco had the best TV ads. Certainly the best shop ads, possibly the best anything ads. They were simple and sophisticated and on-brand with what they were saying all year round. Absolutely no holly or paper hats. One said they'd got a huge variety of Christmas puddings for very picky people but if you didn't like Christmas pudding at all there was a nice sticky toffee one. So tell me something new, you'll be saying, we know Tesco gets everything right.

Retail analysts meanwhile will have been watching everyone's Christmas advertising and its sales outcomes in hawkish ways - and particularly Morrisons'. Morrisons finally acquired Safeway last year so this was their first Christmas of integrated trading.

We all know it hasn't been looking good. In the autumn, Morrisons took a big profit hit. And a reputational hit too, because the story was that those no-nonsense Yorkshiremen could integrate and revive the flagging No 4 player in an instant, and here they were looking as if the Morrison philosophy wouldn't travel South of Watford.

Morrisons' Christmas TV commercials were OK. Just about. It was narrative. It was genre. We've all seen worse. The campaign seemed to be all about putting things away in overstuffed houses and cars to a jazzed-up version of "The Holly and the Ivy". All sorts of people - always a dangerous cliché, as in "something for all the family" - were coping with excess. Hiding things under beds, watching extra fruit fall off pyramidal piles. And the strapline - now just wait for this - was "Your money will go even further this Christmas at Morrisons".

There were 1,000 offers in every store apparently.

I've got a Morrisons near me in the exotic Edgware Road, but I hardly went near it when it was Safeway's because it didn't have the nice things Waitrose and Marks had and it wasn't cheaper than Tesco. If this bland generic stuff is intended to introduce the wonder of Morrisons to a picky southern market, then it won't have done much on any front. No remarkable products, no inspiring offers and no clever stuff designed to demonstrate that they understand PLUs. One of the requirements of national retail brand status - as well as buying clout and perfect supply lines - is an understanding of marketing and market segments. They probably think that's all nancy southern voodoo in Morrison country.