sam dickson

Marketer of the Week

An early Christmas star: Asda's Sam Dickson

Working with Havas, Dickson and her team have created one of the real stand-out campaigns of the season

By Creative Salon

When Meg Farren announced that she was stepping down from her role as Asda’s chief customer officer after only nine months in the job to return to KFC as general manager, obviously our first thought was who’d take charge of the Christmas ad.

Step forward Sam Dickson, who joined the retailer as head of own brand in early 2021 after twelve years of service at Waitrose. Dickson is now acting CCO at Asda and was instrumental in working with Havas to deliver the knockout Have Your Elf A Merry Christmas campaign.

Dickson, who started her career as a management trainee at Sainsbury’s and stayed for 17 years before switching to marketing at B&Q, has retail – and particularly supermarket retail – in her blood. But Asda, under the ownership of the billionaire British-Indian Issa brothers’ EG Group, is something else. The business is on a fast-track mission to regain its status as the nation’s second-biggest supermarket chain, and increased operating profits by 42 per cent last year. This Spring it launched a new value range for cash-strapped shoppers that helped boost the customer base by an extra 417,000 by the summer. As head of own brand, Dickson has been a core player behind this growth strategy.

So Christmas 2022 is crucial.

When Asda’s agency pitched the Elf concept back in the early summer, it seemed like one of those brilliantly obvious ideas that surely had been done before - brilliantly obvious, perhaps, but nightmarish to pull off. As it turned out, the idea had never been done before – no doubt because of the challenges involved in getting sign-off from Elf star Will Ferrell and the rights holders.

But Dickson was undaunted. Vicki Maguire, the chief creative officer at Havas, says: “I remember when we presented Elf to Sam. Her first response was laughter… “Well, he’s green..” We thought the Elf route was the wild card, but she totally got it. No one knows their customer better than Asda. Sam said "after the year our customers have had we should give them a bit of light relief. And he’s branded. Let’s do it.” Sam’s smart, knows her stuff, but I think most importantly she is a people person who is totally in tune with Asda’s customer and is driven to deliver them the best.”

The end result has certainly charmed shoppers and took an early lead in the “best Christmas ad” stakes. System1’s analysis of the current crop of Christmas ads predicts long-term and short-term effectiveness by measuring the emotional responses of a panel of viewers; Asda’s Elf scored 5.9 stars for long-term market share growth and also recorded a 1.93 "spike rating” as indication of its short-term effectiveness. And for brand recognition Asda scored a 100-point fluency rating.

All of which adds up to Asda being the most impactful and likely successful ad so far this season and Sam Dickson being one of marketing’s brightest stars this yule.


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