Is 'near critical' Morrisons’ pared down Christmas campaign the right move on the back of yet another set of dismal results?

Morrisons has ditched its celeb ambassadors Ant and Dec for good in its Christmas campaign, instead drafting in real-life employees who are shown making and preparing products festive products. The scaled back ad is reflective of the ailing supermarket’s shift in strategy to try and woo shoppers with its ‘made fresh’ proposition.

All activity in the campaign – which includes in-store activity, outdoor, radio, direct marketing, digital and press advertising as well as a series of three adverts – will feature the hashtag #makeitmagical. Marketing director Andy Atkinson claimed it shows how its staff will make Christmas ‘magical’ for consumers while also highlighting how it sources fresh produce.

However, amid another round of disappointing results – posted today (5 November) – analysts have questioned if a muted Christmas push is enough to stand up against its competitors during such a crucial period in the retail calendar.

“It feels like Morrisons has almost scaled back its marketing at a time when it should have been investing in big value messages,” said Phil Dorrell, former Asda marketer and partner at consultancy firm Retail Remedy. “If Morrisons is to make up for its first half shortfall, it will need to pull out all the stops in Q4 because Q3 was another quarter of lacklustre sales.”

Earlier this year, its half year like-for-like sales were down 2.7 per cent, prompting a 35 per cent drop in underlying profit. Over the 13 weeks to 1 November, the retailer posted a 2.6 per cent fall in like-for-like sales, worse than analysts had feared. Despite this, chief executive David Potts sought to put a positive spin on events, saying that ‘good progress’ had been made.

“There was good progress during the quarter against many aspects of our plan. Our customer satisfaction scores were again materially ahead of last year,” he said.

John Ibbotson of retail consultants Retail Vision suggested Potts’ claim of making good progress is bordering on the delusional and the turn-around plan and focus on promoting its fresh food qualities is simply not working.

"Morrisons is entering the critical Christmas period in near critical condition,” he said. "It lacks the size and profitability of Tesco, has lost its price perception to Asda and can't compete with the quality and service standards of Sainsbury's. Making fresh sarnies in-store is an honourable initiative, but it won’t alter Morrisons' vulnerability to the low cost discounters and the resurgent Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's.”

However, perhaps trying to emulate Tesco – which recently injected new life into its advertising with the hire of BBH – Morrisons has put its creative account up for review, making this the last campaign from its agency DLKW Lowe.

Asda released its fast-paced festive offering earlier this week while Tesco is expected to run with a themed-version of its new ads featuring brand ambassadors Ruth Jones and Ben Millar.

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