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Tesco Adverts: Something Must Be Done

tesco adverts

Something must be done. AdTurds readers keep telling me. My wife has told me. I overhear strangers talking about it. And Bob Mortimer too. Everyone hates these Tesco adverts.

The Tesco adverts. The ones with Ben Miller and Ruth Jones and their Inbetweenerish teenage son ("up and coming" actor Will Close). Miller is a Stupid Dad. She flirts with men younger than her own son (cf. Argos). The son is a twat. A massive one. A twat as big as Kris Marshall.

Look, here they are playing those roles. Ruth is, naturally, delighted by the Brand Guarantee. The son is being a dick and the Dad is being a dunce. As is proscribed by Advertising. Though interestingly not by the Advertising Standards Authority - this Haggling ad defies a previous ASA ruling as it doesn't clarify that you only qualify for a price difference refund if you buy more than ten items and the cheaper product comes from Asda, Sainsbury's or Morrisons. Naughty.

Anyway, here's how Marketing Magazine sees the new campaign:

The spot will show the family in a supermarket with Ben Miller's character Roger playing an 'embarrassing dad' figure, quizzing the checkout colleague on the mechanics of the Brand Guarantee.

It will be followed by a spot showing Ruth Jones' character Jo, who "gets on her high horse about certain things", tutting the word "typical" when she sees a queue at the till before being pleasantly surprised when a Tesco colleague opens a check out to serve her.

The characters in the campaign represent a modern family, with "sexual chemistry" between the parents and banter between the father and son, Freddie, who represents a 'boomerang' child back living with parents in his 20s.

Sorry. I had to stop be to be sick everywhere. But afterwards I felt a sort-of elation when I realised I don't have to listen to this stuff anymore. But then I felt sorry for the people who do.

Rekindling latent love of the brand

Tesco's brand director, Michelle McEttrick, thinks that customers have a 'latent love of the brand'. That is simply not true, not any more true that suggesting that I have a latent love of Texaco, Powergen or Allied Carpets. At best they perform a function in my life.

I hate to break this to you, Michelle, but I don't hang out in Tesco with a bunch of friends - or have get-togethers with the people who elbowed me out of the way in their desperation to buy some brown-looking mince at the yellow-stickered section.

Tesco's adverts have been really poor for a while now. Squeezed from below and retrenching after some ill-fated excursions into new markets and sectors, Tesco doesn't seem to know what it's about any more. So their branding needed an overhaul. But there's something rather grisly about all this.

Permission to be funny

Caroline Pay, deputy creative director at BBH, thinks Tesco 'has permission to be funny'. And the brand has mined 'comedy' to good effect in the past. But there's a problem with trying to be funny - it's also a short-cut to aggravating people, especially if that comedy is considered ill-judged.

It doesn't matter if you hate the Go Compare adverts - it's exactly the same service offered by a half a dozen operators. Being known is the only aim. But it's different here - if no-one can stand your adverts they're not going to be receptive to its key messages.

I think the best adverts Tesco has put out are the 'Every Little Helps' voiceover adverts of a few years ago - represented here by Jimmy Nail, of all people, talking about the Tesco price check (at around 3.50). They're clean, simple but still have character.

Wind back a little further and Tesco had Prunella Scales as a sociopathic Grandma disapproving of her daughter's (Jane Horrocks) every move. Although they never had to contend with social media (or blogs) I'm guessing this is where Tesco is aiming with this new series and that's fair enough - it's certainly a blindingly obvious one, for which someone is probably drawing down a seven-figure sum.

But the devil is in the detail here. Personally I'm ambivalent about them, but people utterly despise these adverts - especially the son, who seems to be in real physical danger should certain people recognise him. And the disappointment in the likeable Jones and Miller is clear.

On top of horsemeat and profit scandals I don't suppose a shonky ad campaign is going to worry anyone too much. There might never have been much brand love; whether Tesco can recapture brand loyalty remains to be seen.

Tesco advert keywords

A selection of the keywords phrases AdTurds readers have been typing into their browsers over the last month. The ones in bold are my favourites:

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Tesco Adverts: Twitter reacts

Every Little Helps

Leaning Disability

Gluten Free

The Son


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  • Paul LJ Catlow

    Out of interest, what happened to the cretinous older son, and where did those two little kids suddenly appear from? OK, so they call one half of Armstrong and Miller “uncle”, and Ness out of “Gavin and Stacey” is “auntie”. But is it a case of what tvtropes calls…

  • miradordelmar

    Just innane senseless and an insult to intelligence – who on earth thought these would be funny?????????? thought ben was better then this

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  • Onmebike

    The small detail that bothers me is that when the son quite reasonably asks “What’s gluten free” he is told “No time to explain”

    Returning with an item that undeniably meets the unexplained gluten free criteria he is derided as a moron.

    If I was him I might purchase gluten free rat poison to add to the canapes at his parents little soiree.

    Oh and save some for the wretches that decided to broadcast this steaming pile of ordure onto my TV.

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  • c drover

    Watch out Tesco, Aldi & Lidl are coming for you. Oh yes and your Ad is bloody awful, irritating and cringeworthy.

  • Anthorny

    Up early and the TV’s on. And I was just subjected to the latest variant of the Tesco cringeworthy TV ad. It prompted me to Google “rubbish Tesco TV ad” and I landed here.

    What a great site and how warming to learn that I am not alone in finding the latest Tesco campaign so off-the-chart painful. I feel a sense of embarrassment if any of the series comes on and someone else is present. I find I need to start speaking (about anything) as a diversion from the embarrassment of the shared awfulness.

  • ben

    All of these ads are truly awful and so much for encouraging reusable bags when the latest ad shows a trolley full of 5p ones!

  • flux

    Ahh the stupid man/Dad routine – a firm favourite of many high street chains over the years. Sexist? Maybe not, but enough of a turn off to stop me shopping there.

    • Sebastien Dubois

      Oh, trust your first instinct and do the advert justice – you were correct in the first instance as it is indeed sexist. I’ve not yet seen one of these sequence of adverts that isn’t incorrectly and negatively typifying the male/s or putting them down whilst portraying the Mum to be the sorter, the arranger and some sort of flirting, emasculating, erudite flirt. Such a series of adverts from the same provider would never get past the first one if the gender roles were reversed.

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  • jenny

    Glad other people think the Tesco,s ad is shite, what is Ruth Jones thinking… doing a pile of rubbish like this advert… Obviously money talks

  • Laurence Stevens

    Makes the presumption that retarded families shop at tesco – probably true.

  • Jean

    What a waste of advertising fee. Absolute rubbish advert waste of funds Tesco.

  • Bingo Little

    These adverts are unforgivably awful, but the ‘son’ is absolutely beyond the pale. I’ve literally never seen acting like that in my entire life. Did they actually audition this guy, or was he free, or what?

  • Alexis

    If ever an ad campaign could be summed up with the single word ‘tragic’, this is it.

  • Simon Fraser

    I just think of that Bill Hicks line “you do a commercial and you’re off the artistic roll call forever” It is painful to see Ben Miller shill for Tesco.

  • M

    Sorry Tesco, the Ads are uncomfortable to watch.

  • Chris

    God I hate this shite so much, thanks for covering it.

    And regarding the first ad where they open a till for the ‘milf’, if they scanned faster and didn’t try and chew my ear off, they wouldn’t have any queues, all I’m gonna say is thank god for self checkouts

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