It’s an awkward start for Tesco’s new campaign that balances the nation’s general goodwill to stars against our disbelief in the price offer.

It’s an awkward start for Tesco’s new campaign that balances the nation’s general goodwill towards Ruth Jones and Ben Miller against our equal disbelief in the price and service offer on demonstration.

Is this technically the right thing to do? Yes, and that may be the problem.

First, consolidate all advertising into a vehicle with cut-through to drive spend more efficiently.

Second (true to David Lewis’s strategy of protecting the core) lead with one foot firmly on a branded goods price match and quickly step to another that talks about priority service at the till.

Third, abandon emotion and go straight for humour.

Family affair

How does one do this? You pick some lovable, funny, famous-but-everyday, not too high nor too lowly celebrities and wrap their equity instantly around your brand. Good times. And that’s where they end, for now.

A husband and wife in a supermarket with what appears to be their 26-year-old son; mum softly caressing a packaged chicken as she fawns over a checkout boy.

Dad joshing about with his Moroccan negotiation skills in what will remind some of a Tesco buyer. It hides any renewed investment in customer experience and presents the staff as stooges.

It feels backward-facing – hanging on to the last remnants of the glory days of Tesco as ‘auntie’ looking after the uncompromising shopper.

The choice of vehicle – a family – is what old-world brands do when their confidence is shot.

It offers a view on what the middle market ‘rump’ should need at a time when the middle market has a very uncertain and fragmented identity. Aldi, Ocado and Amazon Fresh are increasingly all options within any given day. It’s samey advertising, it’s not a distinctive voice.

Brand image

Though recessed in this new batch of work, ‘Every little helps’ seems to be an important thread that Tesco is holding onto.

These words as a coherent driving force have the potential to see it through this period where small, tangible evidence of change in brand experience has all the power.

Choices made about the external brand are a direct manifestation of the internal culture and Mr Lewis may have to turn more attention to this.

Strategy has rightly been tightly focused on core improvements, sorting the balance sheet, reducing physical footprint, selling off diversified businesses, and Mr Lewis himself buying share in the company.

As these fundamentals are well under way; getting the internal agenda away from the past and onto the new is critical. The staff themselves are a force multiplier if they can align behind an effort themselves to do ‘every little thing they can’.

Equally, there is a brief for the omnichannel experience along the same lines. Tesco has wanted to stay firmly focused on the here and now and not get carried away with five-year plans, which is brave and right.

Equally, the time has come to show us how Tesco can bring imagination to putting the customer first.

Rags to riches?

To finish positively with a brand in this position, you have to start somewhere. Many are looking for a short, straight, transparent line between what we hear and material change so that we can (as I think many would like to do) root once again for Tesco.

In this respect – as Ruth and Ben get their feet under the table and Tesco begins to move from sorting today and moving to tomorrow – I’m less concerned about a seemingly awkward start.

It has to be an awkward start. I doubt anything written here hasn’t been anticipated. A brief look back at the start of most campaigns is the same. It’s the ability to stick with them and develop them that will be the ultimate test. I’m looking forward to Christmas already.

  • Jonathan Trimble, chief executive at ad agency 18 Feet & Rising