Sainsbury’s bets on creative flair with Spotify but will it trump status quo ads from supermarkets?

Dancing, Spotify tie-ups, and a catchy tune make for what is clear push from Sainsbury’s to tap the creative talent that made Nike and Three famous, but in a market as functional as supermarkets is there a risk of style over substance?

Sainsbury's first ad under the direction of Weiden + Kennedy has taken a drastically different approach from its previous creative, which for the last 40-years had been under the stewardship of AMVBBDO. The agency was behind the Jamie Oliver campaigns from years past and pushed the 'Little Tips' work which ran throughout 2016. And after the review's conclusion, it went out on a high with the most popular ad over Christmas and the kudos of helping Sainsbury's to achieve record festive sales.

What emerged from that review was that Sainsbury's wanted to stand out in the other 10 months of the year and come up with a year-round strategy that would pull customers through its doors.

But while its retail rivals are in similar positions, they have by all accounts taken a backseat on so-called blockbuster ads.

Tesco is showing no signs of moving away from the low-key ads that have helped turn a £6.3bn loss into £162m profit over the last four years, while both Asda and Morrisons have shown no inclination to deviate from the sector's advertising motifs. Sainsbury's on the other hand is seemingly out to prove that it can do high-quality, big-impact marketing year round.

Dubbed #FoodDancing, the TV ad features colourful shots of fresh Sainsbury’s food interjected with candid black and white footage of real-life people dancing as they cook to a tune especially written by UK artist MysDiggi. It is backed by a series of online activations using Gif's and similarly stylised OOH executions.

Given the musical nature of the campaign, Sainsbury’s has also forged the first Spotify Branded Moments sponsorship in the UK that will see it appear in vertical video ads on the app. It’s perhaps an unexpected tie up with the streaming service, but one which will give the retailer the ability to harness Spotify’s insights into what consumers are doing at any given time – which it does through playlists such as ‘Relaxing’ or ‘Dinner’ – in order to reach people in specific contexts or in a certain mood.

It certainly has the flair that W+K has garnered a reputation for alongside all the components to 'go viral', but the question lingers as to how this campaign will play out in the long run and set the brand up for the next wave of marketing. Retail marketing is so tied to cyclical events that how Sainsbury's maintains this type of execution during key moments like Easter will be closely watched.

Sainsbury’s said it wants to “celebrate the simple joy that can come with food” and put it “at the centre of real moments, relationships and emotions" with the campaign.

“The excitement and energy created by our #fooddancing film is the perfect antidote to how our customers tell us they feel in January,” explained Mark Given, director of brand communications at Sainsbury’s.

“Why should one month of the year have less opportunity to live well than any other? Having fun in the kitchen is a big part of living well. Whether you are whipping up your signature dish or just having a cheese sandwich, making something to eat is a joy. So, let’s celebrate it.”

The pressure then will be on Given to deliver. In a surprise announcement, marketing director of five years Sarah Warby quit the business yesterday (17 January) without another role to go to and very little explanation as to why.

In a statement, chief executive Mike Coupe said: "She’s always been passionate about customers and has transformed our marketing approach. In her time here she’s led the creation of some of our most memorable campaigns and I wish her all the best for the future.”

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