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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

December 2, 2021 | 4 min read

As Co-op’s competitors invested in glossy festive creative for their all-important Christmas campaigns, the grocer opted to spotlight the issue of food waste in a raw, live TV ad. Co-op’s chief marketing officer and agency partner Lucky Generals take The Drum behind the scenes on creating TV drama on a tight budget.

Last Friday Co-op and ITV ran the first live TV ad from a UK grocer. It was placed in the break of Coronation Street to transplant primetime audiences into an authentic Community Fridge to educate consumers.

Ali Jones, customer and community director at Co-op, says: “We don’t have the biggest marketing budget in the world and so we have to be really clever and a bit different to create the cut-through.”

The campaign’s ambition was to “tell customers people still need help, and every time you shop at the Co-op you are helping us make a difference in the community,” Jones says.

Working with long-term partner Lucky Generals to bring the ad to life, the agency’s client lead David Mannall says the live idea “added a sense of importance and a bit of TV drama, which no TV ad can do.”

Mannall likens the creative process to “waiting for a rocket to launch.”

“Everyone has rehearsed, choreographed, synchronized before, and then you just watch it play out over two minutes as opposed to spending two or three days on a shoot doing take after take,” he says. “It’s very different to your traditional ad process, which is scripted to every bit of punctuation, storyboarded and every item of an ad production is highly fought over and controlled.”

The ad featured contributors, not actors, which Mannall says was vital in the production to “give them space to be themselves” and avoid overdirecting them. While Dermot O’Leary and Big Zuu brought some celebrity power, their role was also to make others in the spot “feel comfortable, easy and guide them through it.”

According to Jones, after airing the ad doubled Co-op’s net sentiment to +8, conversation levels were up 46% on average, and reach on both Facebook and Instagram was up 300% from average levels.

Mannall says Lucky Generals would “love” to make a live ad again: “We learned so much and it’s achieved its aim of shining a spotlight on this cause, giving us the confidence [that] it’s a great thing to do. At points, live created different stresses in the process, but none of those would stop us from doing it again.”

Pulling together this ad ultimately saved Co-op more money than a massive campaign with multiple 60-second airtimes. Jones explains the savings were plowed into buying more community fridges in the run-up to Christmas.

Co-op’s community fridge campaign went against the dominant 2021 Christmas ad trend, which moved away from the social causes of 2020 and instead promoted traditional Christmas festivities.

Jones tells The Drum the problems of the pandemic aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“The legacy of the pandemic is going to be around for a long time,” she says, adding that Co-op will continue its brand purpose communications way into 2022 and 2023.

The campaign is a continuation of Co-op’s partnership with Lucky Generals and Dentsu, which it linked with in 2019 to help integrate its brand purpose into all its communications.

Co-op and ITV’s partnership was brokered by Denstu agencies Carat UK and The Story Lab, and the ad was produced by ITN Productions.

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