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Creative Partnerships

Morrisons and Leo Burnett On The Pull of Populist Advertising

Morrisons' head of marketing Jennifer England and the newly-minted Leo Burnett CEO Carly Avener talk about their budding relationship

By Creative Salon

Ah Christmas. Never too early to talk about Christmas. Time to feel the joy, to laugh and be entertained. And just the ingredients that led supermarket Morrisons to appoint Leo Burnett as its new agency of record just before the festive season last year.

"There was a reason why Leo Burnett was on the initial pitch list," says Jennifer England, head of marketing communications at the retailer. "We're big fans of their populist work and all the joy that brings. Especially the agency's work for McDonald's."

"And when we met them we just thought, here's a really great bunch of people who match our passion and ambitions for the brand. A brand I have lived and loved for so long. We got really excited about getting in the room with them and doing great work."

That bunch of people, "all united and pulling in the same direction," included Charlie Rudd - recently promoted to group CEO of Leo Burnett, Fallon and Publicis.Poke , global CCO Chaka Sobhani, ECD Mark Elwood, CSO Josh Bullmore and Carly Avener - the agency's new CEO who was promoted from managing director this summer.

In her new role, Avener will act as a senior partner to Leo Burnett's clients – largely its newer accounts including Allwyn, which it won in March, and Morrisons.

The first work from Leo Burnett for the supermarket was reviving the classic "More Reasons to shop at Morrisons" jingle. Last seen in 2006, the return comes as Morrisons brings back the More loyalty scheme and expands and rebrands its Savers Range of products in its attempt to reverse the tide of declining market share. The supermarket had slipped out of the ‘Big Four’, with discounter Aldi boasting a larger market share. Most recently, Morrisons posted a 3 per cent increase in like-for-like sales, driven by revenue in the third quarter. It is the fifth consecutive quarter when sales have improved.

Creative Salon sat down with Avener and England - who has been at Morrisons for over a decade - to explore their new-ish partnership and how it's leading to the kind of work that Morrisons says is already bearing fruit with its customers. And what about Morrisons' Christmas ad this year? Definitely leaning into joy?

Read along to find out.

Creative Salon: Let's start from the beginning. Tell us about the pitch process. What were you looking for in your new agency partner? Why Leo Burnett?

Jennifer England : When we set out just over a year ago on the pitch process, it was about making sure that we were working with the very best strategic and creative partner. What stood out for us was the strength of Leo Burnett's strategic approach and thinking and also their incredibly integrated team. And how strategy flowed through seamlessly from the insight into the strategy into the creative work and execution and design work.

Also, we're great fans of what they've done for other clients, particularly McDonald's. And I think they have a very strong effectiveness mindset, which is very much a journey that we're on at Morrisons - to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of everything that we're doing from a marketing perspective. And Leo Burnett match our passion, ambition for our brands, and for our business.

Carly Avener: It was appealing and attractive to us, right from the start, to find another client that believes in the power of creativity for their brand. It was quite the same for us when we met the team and the people from Morrisons - it was so exciting to know that they had a plan in place and the clarity on how they how they were going to get there. It's just about finding the right partner to kind of identify the strength in the brand and bring it to life in a way that was going to appeal to the most amount of people. We just felt that was very much in sync with how we think about brands and how we kind of feel about the world.

The revival of ‘More reasons’ slogan in Morrisons' brand revamp - whose idea was that? Is that just a play on nostalgia?

England: It was a question that we posed through the pitch process. As a business we had already started looking at this asset much before the pitch process. We had already done a fairly thorough audit of all our brand assets and really wanted to start at the beginning to look at who we are and what we stand for as a brand. We started also doing a lot of listening, a lot of listening with colleagues and a lot of listening with customers to inform the briefings live through the pitch process. And we discovered that the 'More Reasons' tagline and jingle are still memorable and meaningful in Britain.

As a brand when you discover you've got a powerful brand asset which is memorable even today without any media spend and has brand salience - it seemed crazy not to revisit it. But having said that, we haven't just brought back something from 20 years ago. It wasn't because we were simply relying on nostalgia, no. The new campaign celebrates the real and motivating reasons why customers choose Morrisons. And although we don't have data to share yet, we are confident this is going in the right direction for the business and our customers.

CS: Was there any kind of temptation on the agency's part to slightly push back and say - we are the new agency, let us try and do something really different?

Avener: Absolutely not. As Jen says, it was presented to all the shortlisted agencies during the pitch process. Also I think we we were already behaving like an agency partner would behave, not just doing pitch tactics. We don't want to be different for the sake of being different or looking different. We have so much respect for all the work that Morrisons has done both as a brand and as a business.

We saw all that data around 'More Reasons' and went - most brands would kill for that sort of equity, especially if you haven't even invested in it for 20 years. Imagine the power that would have especially in retail, one of the biggest spending categories. And so the starting point wasn't really nostalgia. The starting point, once you've got a distinctive asset, was how do you make it mean something to people that might remember it? And to others that might not? But also how do you give it the meaning that Morrisons needed to have for today? And for a future.

Retail is a category under a lot of scrutiny, especially with the cost of living crisis. Also in Britain we take our grocery brands very seriously. Morrisons has been going through a turnaround exercise. So what are your expectations from your creative agency? What kind of client-agency relationship are you building?

England: Retail has a very short-term focus on weekly sales of how we're doing. We don't sit back and wait, we have to take action and when we have to change it has to be immediate. I've worked a long time in retail to know that is always challenging for an agency, because it's about making sure that you can be incredibly reactive and tactical. [Prior to Morrisons, England worked at Asda for over eight years]. And at the same time there needs to be a long term strategy for the brand. Leo Burnett have been brilliant at that. And we can see that now, but we were seeing that through their work on McDonald's too. They know how to have long term strategic conversations and planning to get those building blocks in place to really build a brand for the long term, while churning out brilliant tactical short-term work that our business needs.

Avener: Yes it's true. We do operate in two gears. There is a very, very tight fast-paced day-to day-team who are there to react and write scripts for the next day. And then we try and create space for longer term thinking on how we steer the brand in the right place.

Jennifer, you've mentioned McDonald's a few times. Do you have a favourite 'Maccies' ad? And why?

England: The 'Raise Your Arches' campaign. What I so love about it is this creative reinterpretation of one of the most famous brand assets. Turning the iconic Golden Arches into a raised pair of eyebrows to celebrate the universal invitation to grab a Maccies. Yes it's brilliant.

Avener: Back to that point of distinctive brand assets - when you invest in them like McDonald's has for years and years and years, you get to the point where you don't need to say much as a brand because there is a visual piece that is there to play with. We have similar ambitions for Morrisons and its business. Over time we will get to a place where you'll hear the jingle, but you don't need the words and you know who it's for. And you'll see the visual identity and without the brand's name there but you'll know who it's for - providing salience and generating distinctiveness.

How will the 'More Reasons' tagline shape your Christmas campaign this year?

England: 'More Reasons' is not just a tagline or a campaign for us. It is a brand platform. We're intending to keep using it for many years. And to Carly's point, I think, again, one of the things that we loved about Leos was that there was no question in their minds about bringing back 'More Reasons' and they were rooting for it from the first tissue session right through to final pitch. Ultimately, it will prove to be a really astute business decision for us. And Christmas? Leo Burnett’s output has a tendency towards fun and joy. And we love them for that.


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