IF not actually at war, competition between supermarkets in Ireland certainly stepped up with the first stage of the crash two years ago. Lidl and Aldi won share from Tesco, Dunnes, SuperValu and Superquinn. Brands seemed in temporary freefall as people turned away from old reliables and dallied with strange, cheaper alternatives.
Musgraves, with their twin networks of SuperValu and Centra, had double-trouble. Not only had they to step up activity in SuperValu to hold share, Centra also had to join the ‘offer’ fray to save it being defined forever as ‘convenient but expensive’, along with Spar and others.
All this is partly why for the last two years our screens, along with every other available medium, have been filled with Supermarket advertising that’s a relentless inventory parade of prices and items, of known brands and own brands. Points of distinction occupy little of the messages. Dunnes have proclaimed ‘The difference is we’re Irish’ (not that their featured items show any particular Irish bias) leaving the audience wondering if that isn’t the same difference as others might claim, including SuperValu. Tesco consistently display a modest humour in advertising with ‘Every Little Helps‘ even while allegedly using immodest strong-arm tactics in trade. Meanwhile Superquinn, who began by anachronistically telling us the native source of their produce, have recently taken to assuring us that they price-check themselves against Tesco. During this time SuperValu have talked about ‘Real Food, Real People’ and have introduced us to a lot of their real staff, though sadly none demonstrated quite as much x-factor as Tesco’s Mary Byrne. But will SuperValu’s advertising bring something new to the sector now that they’ve changed agency? The pitch was prudently and mercifully tight, kept between the incumbent McCann-Erickson and the eventual winners. Pundits were not totally surprised that SuperValu opted for DDFH&B. In the November issue of Marketing.ie, SuperValu & Centra Marketing Director Ray Kelly was asked to pick his favourites from the current crop of ads on the Irish airwaves. Of the three he chose, one was an import, Heineken ‘Walk-in Fridge’ produced by TBWA Holland. The other two singled out for praise by Kelly were Lotto and Denny, both from DDFH&B. This same review would have been read with polar opposite reaction in the two pitching agencies in Christchurch and Pembroke Street. Now the big question:- given that we’re all sick and tired of price and item and there’s only so many staff- real or not- anyone can look at without wanting to gag, will SuperValu behave like the industry leader it aspires to be and do something different, new and creative? Let’s see what happens.