Jamie Oliver quits Sainsbury’s, is it time for celebrity chefs to cash in their chips?

Or the other way round off of course. Are the public still convinced by celebrity chefs endorsing supermarket brands (when the chefs all secretly shop at Borough Market, Selfridges or Waitrose)?

Jamie Oliver, who’s quitting Sainsbury’s after 11 years (or the other way round) probably has run his course for the supermarket giant; the guy’s now a multi-millionaire with a new and expensive (and successful so far) chain to establish with Jamie’s Italian.

He’s also become a rather more divisive figure with the great British pubic, some finding him still the cheeky chappie with a conscience; others wishing he’d stop telling us all what to do. Moving from school dinners to general education with his Jamie’s Dream School series on Channel 4 was probably a bridge too far for even the telegenic boy from Essex.

But he’s undoubtedly been good for Sainsbury’s which has consistently beaten the market over the past few years.

The others? Well the duo of Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith for Waitrose seems good on paper but it’s an uncomfortable mix in practice. Is Delia just there in case Heston frightens the horses?

In fact Delia’s a deal scarier than Heston, looking a bit like she’s escaped from some chef’s mummy’s tomb.

Marco Pierre White is performing (not very convincingly) for Bernard Matthews’ turkey products and Knorr at the moment but does anyone remember who Marco is? Apart from restaurant critics and gossip columnists of a certain age.

I was looking through a Rick Stein book the other day and he said he was advising Tesco on their fish counters (he probably isn’t now). He didn’t achieve that much did he?

The reason why celebrities are popular with advertisers and agencies is that, if they work (even though they mostly don’t) you don’t have to think of a new idea for years, just provide a variation on the last one. Unless they get caught out by the News of the World (and you don’t even have to worry about that any more).

Anyway the split will give top UK agency AMV/BBDO something to think about. Will they try to replace him? Matt Tebbutt (safe) or Aaron Craze (risky) from Good Food Channel’s Market Kitchen could be worth a wager.

Oliver, though, is signed up for the Christmas campaign so it won’t be panic stations yet.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.