With all the Trimmings

James Turner, Founder & CEO

With all the Trimmings

James Turner, Founder & CEO 

COVID-19 Impact Tracker

I think it’s safe to say we’re officially in the ‘Festive Season’. Our US colleagues have just had Thanksgiving. Around the world Diwali has been celebrated. And now we’re heading into Christmas and Hanukkah, before ringing an end to 2020. In the UK the Christmas ad campaigns are in full swing, if a little different in tone this year.

Headline-making adverts

One advert in particular grabbed the headlines recently, and not necessarily for the right reasons. Sainsbury’s film ‘Gravy Song shares the story of a family separated by circumstance and longing for the joy of company and good food. The film is a masterclass in lowkey storytelling. It evokes the senses – the taste and smells of a festive feast, the sound of an embarrassing but loveable dad singing his song about a gravy boat. The emotional impact is in perfect keeping with the times. Subtle, but powerful.

The resonance of the ad, its emotional narrative and the feelings it stimulates for many, has been obscured somewhat by the story that surrounds it. A story of racist online reaction, a handful of people complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority, and some customers threatening to boycott stores. These individuals claim that the film’s family, who happen to be Black, are not representative of British society. Sainsbury’s was forced to defend their advert. A stark reminder of how far the UK still has to go to address its problems with racial equality.

But in challenging times people’s reactions and responses happen fast. And this time the biggest response came from fellow supermarkets. In an unprecedented (surely the word of 2020!) move, UK supermarkets and broadcaster Channel 4 have joined forces to create a collective moment. The retailers are all broadcasting a message to #StandAgainstRacsim in two high profile commercial schedule slots. This united response has been possible by these brands having the capability to act quickly.

The missing pieces

What this story doesn’t immediately tell us is how big the backlash to the ‘Gravy Song’ ad really was. Is this the action of a vocal minority, amplified through the echo chamber of social media? Are the numbers enough to really cause Sainsbury’s any concern? Doubtless a fast-moving retailer will have brand tracking in place to help them determine the effectiveness and ROI of campaigns. And as this response clearly indicates, social listening and tracking are an essential part of today’s marketing toolkit, allowing for ‘in-flight- adjustment in near real-time.

With COVID-19 continuing to highlight the need for brands to respond rapidly, a brand without a tracker is like a celebration turkey without the trimmings. Sure, you can still eat plain turkey, but is it really a festive feast? Continuous measurement of a brand’s health allows for better decision making, not just at campaign level but across the business. That’s why your tracking has to harness ‘the power of now’ in order to be effective. Let’s face it, no one wants a dry slice of turkey on its own. It needs gravy.

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