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Argos rolls out 'world first, date-stamped' campaign but forced to change media plan in wake of Google controversies


Argos has launched the first ad campaign since the Sainsbury's takeover. But the execution of the "unique" activity has faced challenges after the brand decided to pull spend from Google in wake of ad misplacement controversies.

Argos claims to have launched a “world first” with the advertising push that will see a date-stamped TV spot run every day between now and June in an effort to highlight the retailer’s same-day delivery offering.

Dubbed ’80 Days of Argos’, the work centres on 80 different 10-second spots which draw inspiration from real-world events and dates in the nation’s calendar as well as factors like the weather. For example, an advert running on the opening day of Wimbledon will feature the date and tennis-related products Argos sells, such as racquets. An advert on Princess Charlotte’s birthday – 2 May – will, again, highlight the date and showcase its range of children’s princess dresses.

The idea is that it will promote the breadth of products Argos sells as well as the fact that people can order by 6pm and have it delivered the same-day.

Dan Elton, brand, strategy and marketing planning director at Argos, said that it will be bringing the campaign to life in a number of ways online – including synchronised Facebook videos - while a partnership with Videology will serve up a personalised VOD execution depending on what’s run in the TV ad or what a customer has searched for previously.

“This is part of the continued ‘Go Argos’ campaign which is all about injecting the brand with energy and greater relevance for customers. We see customers are shopping with greater immediacy so this campaign is something that really talks to our uniqueness in that area,” he explained.

Halting spend with Google

Maximising this message on digital channels is crucial, but has been mired by concerns about ad misplacement on Google-owned platforms. Argos admitted to The Drum that it too has halted display adspend with the ad giant, despite it being on the original ’80 Days of Argos’ media plan.

It’s perhaps of little surprise given the agency behind the work. CHI&Partners – part of The&Partnership – has worked with Argos for over 10 years and the group’s founder, Johnny Hornby, was among the loudest voices in the industry calling for Google to take responsibility for ad fraud and misplacement by a fixed date or face pulled ad spend.

Elton said that while it hasn’t given Google a deadline, it has halted spend until it can be reassured the brand's adverts – including those for the current campaign – will not appear next to inappropriate content.

“Johnny [Hornby] is a firm believer in protecting the brands he works with and I applaud him for his stance,” he explained. “We pulled advertising from Google in the short-term until we can be assured that none of our content sits next to advertising that we deem inappropriate. And that remains the case. So as of today, we’re not running any display through the Google Display Network because at the moment we can’t be assured that it won’t appear next to inappropriate content.”

Although he said it comprised a “limited amount” on the original media plan, it has none the less rocked the boat as Argos is well aware “of the value in syncing paid search activity with TV".

“Google are a key partner and I have found them far more responsive than some of our other agency partners in terms of working with us on the problem. So, although it’s a short-term solution I don’t see it as being the long term one,” he continued.

Maintaining the brand as Sainsbury’s takes over

The campaign is the first to come out of Argos since it was formally taken over by Sainsbury’s. Over the past six months, the two businesses have been merged with “very pleasing results so far,” according to Argos chief executive John Rogers.

Some 46 concessions have been opened in Sainsbury’s stores and for those open for more than a year (around 10 stores) sales are up by double-digit figures year-on-year.

Observers have speculated as to what the merger means for key areas like marketing. A key decision was taken, for now, to ensure that both brands act independently when it comes to advertising activity although both Elton and Sainsbury’s marketing boss Mark Given are looking at “synergies” in areas like media buying.

A review of the supermarket’s media buying account recently saw it pulled into The&Partnership, although that has since been challenged by PHD – which pitched for the account – resulting in another review being launched.

However, Elton stressed that “what we’re not doing is crashing the businesses together when there is not a need to do so".

“Both brands have huge value and are very distinct. We have no plans to change that so we have two marketing plans working on growing separate brands. That said, the two departments are working together in a coordinated way. So, for example, event planning or local marketing,” he explained.

“What we’re not doing is joint campaigns for the sake of doing joint campaigns. We’re at the stage of the acquisition where we’re growing the relationship quickly but there isn’t a huge customer rational to do it jointly. The point at which that is the case, we will absolutely join forces.”

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