Why should supermarkets be on the media plan?

Supermarkets are performing well despite the tough financial climate, and they can give brands a boost in a year of special events, according to two outdoor media experts.

MARK BUCKNELL - DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT STRATEGY, JCDECAUX

Why are supermarkets continuing to buck the trend?

Wallis Simpson reportedly said that "supermarkets are more fascinating than any fashion salon". Supermarkets offer today's consumers a right royal treat in terms of diversity of product range, customer service, quality and value. Even in a downturn, we all still need to eat food and buy toilet rolls at supermarkets - part of the reason why the latest Kantar figures show the major multiples are up 4 per cent year on year for the 12 weeks ending 22 January.

Are online sales a threat to supermarkets?

Everything that increases the customer base and brand loyalty is a good thing for supermarkets. It was interesting to see the rise of click-and-collect, where purchases from John Lewis could be collected from the local Waitrose store. Despite the rise in internet shopping, footfall at supermarkets and malls has never been higher - a testament to the broadening of the product offer and the appeal of today's destination centres.

What innovations/innovative campaigns have you recently run?

There is a real trend for brands to run seasonal activity, with great examples including Munch Bunch in the back-to-school period, NiQuitin in give-up-smoking January and Kikkoman sauces at Chinese New Year. Supermarkets are experts at creating seasonal events, enabling advertisers to benefit from the sales uplift generated by bank holidays (DIY or barbecue food and drink), Valentine's Day, Halloween and key sporting events.

What part will events such as the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics play in brands' plans for supermarkets?

The impact of the royal wedding was completely underestimated: Champagne sales rocketed by 28 per cent and even sales of corgis soared by 134 per cent as the royal nuptials captured the spirit of the nation. In terms of the Olympics, we have to look back at the World Cup for comparables - Bloomberg reported that the World Cup was worth £70 million in incremental sales of take-home lager alone. We know that one in three people are planning to entertain with food and drink during the Games and one in five will be inviting people round to watch them (Mintel 2011). So there's a real opportunity for brands to be a part of these events, prompting purchases and capitalising on the feel-good factor.

Why should advertisers put supermarkets on the media plan?

Supermarkets have become destinations that deliver mass audiences - JCDecaux's supermarkets reach 75 per cent of main UK shoppers every two weeks, influencing millions of consumers. It is a highly accountable medium - we have electronic point-of-sale data that demonstrates sales uplift during campaigns, helping drive long-term brand loyalty. We can even show whether the sales uplift is from new or repeat shoppers. However, supermarkets don't only drive sales of FMCG products. As recent campaigns from upmarket holiday companies, cinema releases and investments have shown, supermarkets offer a powerful communications channel for big brands.

OLIVER FORD - BUSINESS DIRECTOR, KINETIC

Why are supermarkets continuing to buck the trend?

Supermarket brands know their customers and focus on relevant positioning. Recent figures do reveal some unexpected items in the bagging area as Asda and Morrisons have been more consistent in their overall offer and brand positioning, clearly reflecting what their shoppers want in the current climate. Our own Kinetic panel research has shown that people still trust supermarkets more than most other sectors. But they will have to communicate in the right way and often to retain this trust in uncertain economic times.

Are online sales a threat to supermarkets?

Not really. Online sales represent only a tiny proportion of total basket size, but they are an effective way of driving loyalty and bucking the trend that developed in 2009, which saw polarisation habits emerging and people splitting their purchases across different retailers. Online helps cement loyalty, but you've still got to choose the supermarket you like best.

What innovations/innovative campaigns have you recently run?

Relevancy and proximity are themes that will drive success in the retail advertising space. For example, digital out-of-home screens are beginning to emerge at point of sale and I think we'll soon see voucher noticeboards offering full mobile interaction. Technology enabling screens to recognise gender, age and expression is already available and could provide the opportunity to create highly targeted location-oriented campaigns. I really admired what Tesco did in South Korea - offering consumers the chance to buy products via QR codes in a subway environment. We ran a similar campaign for Argos at Christmas, where people could reserve products as part of an OOH campaign around some London rail stations. Research showed 9 per cent of engaged consumers bought at the point of interaction using their smartphones.

What part will events such as the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics play in brands' plans for supermarkets?

These events are creating unprecedented opportunity for brands in 2012. People are expected to spend an additional £750 million around the Olympics, and brands - not just sponsors - will take the opportunity to expand their messaging at locations where people buy. Some advertisers feel they failed to capitalise on the Royal Wedding last year. The Jubilee, the Olympics and Euro 2012 offer retailers a great opportunity to really make their year.

Why should advertisers put supermarkets on the media plan?

In the UK, 46 million people use supermarkets each week, and point-of-sale six-sheets generate a strong and proven sales uplift. There is compelling evidence from our clients in this sector of how a combination of proximity and relevancy with well-targeted OOH creative can deliver huge increases in footfall and return on investment. Most of our supermarket clients regularly advertise in proximity to stores and brands are no different. I love a farmers' market as much as the next person, but footfall and the impact on our buying decisions mean you can't ignore a supermarket.

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