Timing is all in the retail business and new Morrisons CEO Dalton Phillips, hired last year from Canadian outfit Loblaw to replace Marc Bolland, has clearly decided that the supermarket chain needs a marketing shake-up.
He will be replaced by Richard Lancaster, head of ambient foods (stuff that goes off) but the really interesting appointments are two other marketers, Belinda Youngs from Sobeys, and before that Sainsburys, and Nick Collard from Boots.
Youngs, who was CMO at Sobeys, is to take charge of the Morrisons own brand business which is clearly weaker than rival offerings at Tesco and Sainsburys while Collard, brands director at Boots, will replace Lancaster and also look after frozen foods.
Not so long ago Bradford-based Morrisons under Bolland and Maciver was regarded as one of the big successes of the supermarket business in the UK, having finally integrated the Safeway business that gave it a far bigger presence in the south of the country and establishing a reputation for no-nonsense value products, plugged relentlessly by a team of celebs including footballer Alan Hansen, Denise van Outen and Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond.
Morrisons dropped this strategy earlier this year but Phillips’ changes will alarm, although hardly surprise, long term agency DLKW Lowe.
DLKW has a record of success on Morrisons, winning an IPA Effectiveness Award for its work, but all the newbies will have their own views about the kind of advertising Morrisons should be doing.
The former Delaney Lund Knox Warren, which was sold by Don Elgie’s Creston to Interpublic-owned Lowe for £28m last year, has already seen its £20m Halifax bank account walk although it has won bikes to car accessories chain Halfords.
To add to the agency’s problems, or maybe to make a start on solving them, the agency also this week parted company with executive creative director George Prest, who was only appointed ECD of the merged agency back in the summer.
As for former Morrisons boss Bolland, the replacement for CEO Sir Stuart Rose at Marks & Spencer on a humungous contract, his timing looks perfect.
Morrisons has been losing share to re-invigorated Asda and Tesco in recent months and Phillips has clearly identified weaknesses in own label. He may also decide that the company needs to bite the bullet and go into online ordering.
These are big strategy issues and not (usually anyway) part of an ad agency’s remit. But with such changes in the offing it would be highly surprising if an agency review doesn’t follow sooner rather than later.