“It influences media plans”: Supply chain headaches for major Christmas advertisers


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Major retailers are rethinking their Christmas advertising plans amid warnings that the driver shortage and fuel crisis will impact product availability and delivery during the holiday season.

The warnings to Christmas shoppers have multiplied and swiftly. The chief executive of Next stressed on September 30 that the labor shortage in the UK will cause its services to “degrade” this year. UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said despite best efforts there would be “no guarantee” that the issues would be resolved by Christmas. Elsewhere, Tesco, Amazon and Yodel have all warned that the sourcing and delivery of products in the run-up to Christmas will affect what and when consumers can buy.

According to a Sitecore survey, the headlines of a Christmas marred by the driver shortage led almost half (48%) of consumers to start shopping earlier, with 28% having already started. Despite the pandemic that has resulted in a massive shift to e-commerce, a significant portion of respondents (45%) said the current uncertainty means they plan to avoid large online retailers and instead buy locally and online. store.

In response, retailers used to spending big budgets on their Christmas advertising are reworking their campaigns to make sure the message aligns with what they can deliver.

“The current situation is definitely influencing media plans,” says Liam Brennan, Senior Global Consultant at MediaCom Blink Consulting.

Most major brands will have planned, shot and booked their hero Christmas TV commercials by the summer. Reports suggested that retailers feared earlier this year that the driver shortage could impact the supply chain. And so, some may have tailored communications accordingly – choosing to move away from any product-specific TV commercials and instead focus on brand messaging.

Brennan says it’s the digital executions that are currently being reworked. “[It’s changing] placements near the point of purchase such as digital signage, search and out-of-home proximity, ”he explains.

Michelle Whelan, managing director of VMLY & R Commerce – the WPP retail agency – said the brands have also chosen to start advertising earlier, pushing to start the Christmas trading period earlier. possible to avoid disappointment of the offer.

Online retailer Studio, for example, launched its advertising campaign for the Christmas brand voiced by actor and TV personality Joe Swash last week.

“Retailers and brands that have control of their supply chain, especially their own brand, will push hard for the reliability of their supply chains,” she said of tactics some advertisers might adopt this year. “This will require absolute confidence in their ability to deliver and we’ll see more of them at hyper-local levels. “

Rob Sellers is responsible for retail at VCCP, which counts Cadbury and Walkers among his clients. He suggests that the call-to-action message on all Christmas communications should also be easy to adapt based on stock levels at any given time.

“If you’re a retailer thinking about Christmas communications, it could be, ‘How do I get people to come to the store to collect? “Because at least it cuts a link in the chain that relies on the drivers,” Sellers explains.

It all seems, on paper, simple. But media planners, able to act on product availability information, still rely heavily on agency clients’ manual updating with sales data.

“This information gap is narrowing, however, with the growth of e-commerce, especially with brands that own their own .com store and control their supply chain,” explains Brennan.

“Situations like these (and the pandemic) further promote behavioral change within agencies and the way marketers work with their sales team to be more ‘real-time’ in how they plan.” their media, attribute to sales data, and use data signals to personalize their messaging – the “digitalization” of their media and marketing. “

Going forward, Brennan says the planning cycle for big events like Christmas will likely begin in months, but the actual activation purchase can be smoother, with many decisions being made at the last minute and media and media. messages optimized around the transmitted data. during the sales period.

Paddy Earnshaw, Customer Director at B&Q, is at the heart of these discussions. The brand has just launched an advertising campaign that will allow it to get through the holiday season.

“We have to make sure that the investment goes to the places where you have availability. We have to be nimble. We’re pretty quick, we can move announcements around and switch, definitely on trading,” he said. .

“And we always list to make sure there’s no risk of being irresponsible. We don’t usually work in a category where that’s a concern, but I imagine for grocery retailers there is. has a concern about what they spawn. “

One category he leads is the sale of fake Christmas trees. But supply issues mean there probably won’t be as many on the shelves as in previous years.

“There are enough trees for everyone, but there will never be more demand for ‘living’ trees,” he says. “This is a good example of an agile campaign – everyone has to have a tree if they want one. So how do we help people realize that there is still a choice? We find a role to play. in that. ”

Supply chain issues aside, VLMY & R’s Whelan said the biggest challenge brands face right now is the rising cost of merchandise as materials and ingredients get more expensive. Managing a positive P&L results in reductions in advertising and marketing spend. She predicts turbulence in the months to come.

“Due to supply chain and cost of goods challenges, we will see a consolidation and reduction in product portfolios with brands really focusing on getting the right product into the right channel. “

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