Morrisons reviews creative account as it charts tricky-looking post-buyout future

Morrisons, recently displaced as the UK’s fourth-biggest supermarket group by Aldi, is reviewing its creative account at Publicis.Poke (an amalgam of Publicis with its digital agency.)

Morrisons is now owned by US private equity group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice which bought it in a £10bn deal a year ago, one of the worst-timed such deals in history as the UK economy was promptly hammered by a number of factors including soaring inflation. CB&R is still trying to re-finance elements of the deal.

Publicis has held Morrisons for nearly seven years after it moved from MullenLowe. The review is via the AAR, with Publicis invited to repitch.

Morrisons chief customer and marketing officer Rachel Eyre says: “We have been working with our partners at Publicis.Poke for seven years and are proud of the work we have produced together.

“A lot has changed for our customers during that time and as we continue to focus on delivering for them, we feel now is the right time to review the market and make sure we are working with the very best strategic and creative partner.”

Morrisons needs both. While there’s not that much wrong with the stores – prior to the buyout its mostly former Tesco management was doing OK – it doesn’t stand for anything. “Making good things happen” is Publicis’ latest stab at the problem but that doesn’t mean very much either.

With Aldi and Lidl supercharged by the cost of living crisis, Tesco mostly deploying its massive scale effectively and Sainsbury’s price-matching Aldi (some of its ads might as well be for Aldi) Morrisons is caught in an uncomfortable bear squeeze, especially as it’s now lumbered with mountains of debt.

Its old ‘Market Street’ pitch for vegetables is dog-eared as they’re no better than anyone else’s and its fresh counters, one of its few distinguishing features (Tesco has axed most of its fresh stuff as has Sainsbury’s) must be under pressure. Aldi and Lidl have a nasty tactic of opening next door to Morrisons, which hardly helps.

So it’s a challenge, to put it mildly, for whichever agency comes through. BBH has risen to the challenge of Tesco which may mean that Morrisons too might look for a more creative solution (although Tesco’s advertising is hardly as sparkling as the days of yore with Lowe Howard-Spink.)

Morrisons needs to be bold, with an agency to match. But it’s a great opportunity for a creative agency to show it really can help to solve a big businesses problem.

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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.

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