Is Argos’ Christmas TV ad a further sign that the retailer has lost its way?

November 2010

I wondered if it was just me who thought the Argos TV Christmas ad, which has Bing Crosby beat boxing (not sure if that’s one word or two…), took Argos to new lows in terms of it scraping around for direction in its lost retail universe. But having spoken to friends and colleagues in the industry and done a bit of research on the web, it seems I’m one of many with that view.

What’s also interesting is the attitude of the minority of consumers who seemed to like the ad, which the editor of the UK Small Business Directory summed it up on his very good website: “I recently wrote blog posts about the Argos Christmas Advert and the John Lewis Christmas Advert. They are 2 completely different styles of adverts, probably aimed at 2 different sections of society. What amazes me though was the response to my 2 blog posts. Many of the comments I received to my post about the Argos advert were crass, abusive, vile and insulting. Whereas the comments to my post about the John Lewis advert have been sensible and well written. Do these 2 ads emphasise the divide in society within the UK? Is the Argos advert for the Chavs and the John Lewis advert for the middle class? And more to the point are the ad agencies playing on this with the two so different styles of ads?”

If the man is right about Argos’ ad agency, then they need to be fired. In any event, I can’t imagine what the board at Argos were thinking when they approved the ad (or, for that matter, the marketing director was doing proposing it…). The fact is that Argos’ strength has been, or at least was in the past, that it appealed to all sections of society and a measure of this is how well it also performs in relatively affluent areas of the country. This is something that really stuck in my mind from my time at this once great retailer, with stores such as the one in Wilmslow, Cheshire (as posh as you get in the north of England) always full with people with probably enough money to buy the site the store was on in its prime position on the high street. And more scientifically-based evidence delivered by the rather dull, but very clever, people in the marketing planning department of Argos when I was there, confirmed that the retailer’s appeal could span all social classes.

But in many ways the ad doesn’t surprise me, and a visit to your local Argos store and its chaotic and nonsensical environment, is already proof that the retailer has lost its way. That said, the Argos website ticks most of the boxes for me – so the story isn’t all bad.

And the John Lewis ad mentioned above? Truly excellent, and an obvious measure of how this superb retailer has made its offer entirely relevant to today’s society. Well, at least most of it.

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