Agencies line up to try to wrest Sainsbury’s away from 40-year incumbent AMV BBDO

Sainsbury’s is reviewing its creative account with AMV BBDO, worth £60m in media terms. AMV, in its two guises, first as an independent and then as part of BBDO, has handled the account for 40 years aside from a brief interregnum when it moved to movers and shakers M&C Saatchi back in the 1990s. It soon returned home.

As so often the move follows the appointment of a new marketing boss. Former head of brand communications Mark Given has been promoted to director of marketing planning and propositions. Which possible equates to marketing director or CMO.

Sainsbury’s says: “Sainsbury’s and AMV have a well-established relationship that stretches back over 35 years and, as you would expect, from time to time it’s important for us both to take a fresh look.”

Which is fair enough. Sainsbury’s, under new CEO Mike Coupe who succeeded frictionless Justin King, has been caught rabbit-style in the headlights as German discounters Aldi and Lidl have shaken up the supermarket business in the UK. At first it seemed to weather the storm better than its rivals but now A&L (not the same business) are encroaching on middle class property and territory, traditionally the heartland of Sainsbury’s and John Lewis-owned Waitrose. Waitrose is fighting back vigorously with new agency adam&eveDDB, Sainsbury’s less obviously so.

But who might replace AMV? The late great David Abbott set the tone for Sainsbury’s all those years ago and it hasn’t really changed much – nor should it have. More recently it’s produced a series of Christmas blockbusters.


Advertising through the year has been less exceptional but that’s partly because the supermarket giants insist on spending their squillions on price comparison ads which the public cheerfully ignore. There are very few run-of-year brand campaigns, Waitrose’s current ‘farm’ effort being the exception to the rule.

An interesting contender, one presumably involved in the ‘chemistry’ meetings going on at the moment, is Johnny Hornby’s CHI. CHI was the runner-up for Waitrose and handles Argos, which Sainsbury’s is in the process of absorbing in a £1.4bn takeover. CHI is 49 per cent owned by WPP which is desperate for a big supermarket creative account. It handles Tesco’s media but the creative is at BBH.

Other contenders seem a bit thin on the ground. Wieden+Kennedy struggled manfully with Tesco for three years but may not fancy another trip down the aisle, WPP agencies will be in the mix somewhere as might McCann whose Manchester office is losing Aldi. Lucky Generals is the current new business trailblazer but might not be deemed big enough.

WCRS is a formidable outfit these days and handles B&Q. Some industry insiders are tipping VCCP, which recently lost Asda after a short tenure as the Walmart-owned business returned to Saatchi & Saatchi without a pitch. Mother’s good.

How brave are Given and co feeling?

We’ll see. But it wouldn’t surprise if Sainsbury’s stays put.

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