How Argos will avoid social media embarrassment with risky personalised Christmas ad

Argos has revealed a Christmas campaign which doesn’t stray far from previous efforts, with a punchy TV ad highlighting its vast range and speedy delivery. But it is the personalised social media videos that could prove to be risky.

Created by CHI&Partners, the TV ad’s story unfolds at an Argos distribution centre where elves are helping Santa to deliver gifts. However, as one child’s Christmas present is forgotten, one elf goes above and beyond to make sure it’s put on the right sleigh.

It plays on the same themes as previous Christmas adverts, avoiding the so-called ‘sadvertising’ typically generated by a John Lewis ad to talk up the two reasons customers shop at the retailer – speed and convenience. However, unlike years past it opted for a spot that would tell a story.

This has influenced the digital elements of the campaign. In a personalised social media version of the advert, parents are encouraged to submit pictures of their children using the hashtag #ReadyForTakeOff on Facebook and Twitter. They will then be sent back an ad featuring their child which they can share on their own social channels.

But it’s a risky move after brands like Walkers and the National Lottery saw their similar ‘personalised’ social media ads hijacked with controversial content.

Marketing director Gary Kibble, who inherited the Christmas campaign plans having only joined the retailer in June, said precautions have been taken to avoid any mishaps.

The&Partnership’s social agency Altogether Now will be manually checking every image uploaded to screen for misuse of the personalisation elements. Kibble said that while labour intensive, it’s a necessary step to avoid falling foul.

“I joined the business with strong opinions about what works and doesn’t at Christmas for retailers, but I was also conscious the team had started the work in advance of me joining. I had engagement in the process even when I wasn’t in the organisation and then when I joined I gave a higher degree of input,” he said.

“My sense is though, when you’re basing a campaign on customer insights you can’t go wrong. I wanted to express my point of view but not make radical changes in direction.”

Merging with the Sainsbury’s brand

Since arriving at Argos from Mothercare, Kibble has navigated a restructure as former head of customer Bertrand Bodson departed the business. His exit saw the role of digital and marketing split and Kibble now works alongside head of digital Mark Steel in overseeing the brand and its continued integration with Sainsbury’s.

“Bertram has effectively handed over the reigns to myself and mark and the legacy he leaves is a really positive one. It’s up to us to raise the bar,” he said.

There has been much discussion on the extent to which Sainsbury’s and Argos will align the brands but, as this Christmas campaign shows, for now, there are no intentions of merging.

“When we’re putting an Argos store in a Sainsbury’s store’ we undertake a huge amount of local marketing and indicate that we are a partnership with Sainsbury’s brand,” he explained. “But I can’t imagine a time we’ll do a bit of broadcast activity that talks about the brands as one at the expense of talking about them separately.”

Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is Brands Editor at The Drum. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

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