Spot the difference: Sainsbury's and M&S

Have you seen the new M&S TV advert, celebrating its 125th anniversary? And have you seen the new Sainsbury’s TV advert, celebrating its 140th anniversary? Good, then we can play a little game.

Spot the difference:

  • Advert opens with a scene set in the late 1900s
  • Advert opens with a scene set in the late 1900s
     
  • Rest of advert takes you through the various achievements of the retailer, with date and description laid out at the bottom of the page
  • Rest of advert takes you through the various achievements of the retailer, with date and description laid out at the bottom of the page
  • The avocado: “We gave you a taste of the exotic”
  • The avocado: “We introduced the avocado”
     
  • “Housewives were liberated”
  • “First women were employed”
     
  • “We give you the best possible food for the best possible price” (Fairtrade scene in background)
  • “First supported Fairtrade”
     
  • “They’re changing the way we look after our planet”
  • “Made reusable bags sexy”

Getting it? Oh and let’s not forget the first and final scenes of the Sainsbury’s ad – a little boy dipping toast soldiers into a runny boiled egg. And what do all the M&S anniversary billboard feature? A toast soldier being dipped into a runny boiled egg.

Now, call us conspiracy theorists, but we have a very sneaking suspicion that there might be something going on here.

This can’t just all a huge coincidence, surely. No two advertising agencies can decide the avocado out of the hundreds of thousands of foodstuffs on offer will represent exoticness by sheer coincidence. No two groups of leading creative minds can land on the soft-boiled agg as an emlem of brand history by sheer happenstance. (And, unlikley as it may seem, the ads were made by different agencies - Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO made the Sainsbury’s ad, while M&S has Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R to thank.)

The M&S ad was released a week after the Sainsbury’s – but TV adverts take a hell of a lot longer than seven days to make. Think months, sometimes even a year. These anniversary campaigns would have been planned ages in advance.

We can’t tell you who’s copied who here, who’s leaked what across to a rival agency, but what we can tell you is that this copycatting isn’t beneficial to either party.

Yes, rivalry is good. Ripping a competitor off is good. But you need to better your rival’s offer, or mock it, or make them look foolish. Remember not too long ago when M&S came out with the ‘Dine for £10’ offer, for a two course meal for two with wine? Sainsbury’s immediately retaliated with a ‘Dine for £5’ offer.

But when you end up producing adverts so similar in content, it looks petty. And it detracts from the uniqueness of either brand. Celebrating brand history and reminding customers of your achievements is fantastic. Ending up looking identical to one of your biggest competitors ain’t.

Whichever agency was trying to mimic the other’s efforts, in an attempt to capitalise on a ‘we’ve done all the same stuff as them!’ vibe, has fallen flat on their face. Viewers are noticing it. Hardly looks professional or original, does it?

If you’re feeling threatened by a rival’s special occasion or new marketing campaign and all the PR and customer-happy flurry that that generates, don’t do the same thing as them. Differentiate yourself as far as possible. Carve out an individual niche. Pick out what has made you special to consumers, what you offer and have done that no one else has, what you’re going to do that no one else can
 

And do as Sainsbury’s say, not as they do: ‘Try something new today’. 
 

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