Sainsbury's admit Cleese ad is faulty

Rhys Williams
Saturday 06 February 1999 00:02
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SAINSBURY'S HIGH-PROFILE Value to Shout About campaign, fronted by John Cleese, has flopped, the chain admitted.

The television commercials, featuring Mr Cleese as a garishly clad eccentric running around a store with a megaphone, has been voted the most irritating ad campaign of the past 12 months and was criticised by staff for making them look foolish. Now Dino Adriano, Sainsbury's chief executive, has said that although it helped bring in more customers, it "did not meet its sales targets". He said the average transaction size and average spend had fallen over the past few months as shoppers cherry-picked the best bargains.

Although only one element in a wider bid by Sainsbury's to shed consumer perceptions of the store as expensive, Mr Cleese's role in the campaign made him its most public face.

"John Cleese is the last resort of people who have run out of ideas," said Stefano Hatfield, editor of the advertising industry magazine Campaign. "If in doubt, call for John Cleese or Joanna Lumley. John Cleese running around shouting has been done so many times before that nobody takes any notice any more."

Mr Hatfield added that the advert's failings reflected difficulties Sainsbury's was having trying to communicate value for money while not implying any loss in quality. "From being the middle-class grocer, Sainsbury's has not really found itself a new positioning from which it challenge Tesco." Sainsbury's said they would continue to use Mr Cleese as an advertising vehicle in the short term despite his cost - reportedly pounds 400,000.

The agency responsible, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, admitted earlier films had "over-executed" the idea of "value worth shouting about" but more recent work had been well received in research. "Sainsbury's always used to talk about quality and to suddenly start talking about value was a shock for a lot of people," said Mark Peterson, account director at Abbott Mead Vickers.

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