This is a copy of an article I wrote for MediaTel, published yesterday.
Total media spend by supermarkets during January this year was down a substantial £6 million year on year, from £33.2 million in January 2011 - a fall of nearly one fifth.
Press was the biggest loser, which saw a massive fall of £3.9 million. TV spend fell £1.9 million and Direct Mail £1.2 million. There were two big winners though. Radio and online spend each increased dramatically, by 91% and 40% respectively.
Although these changes may be a blip (which I doubt), it is more likely that this indicates a shift in media strategies by at least some of the supermarkets toward more careful targeting.
The drive to look at supermarket media expenditure originated from research released today by Starcom MediaVest Group, which looks at supermarket loyalty nationally and regionally. Using TGI data, it shows that 8.75 million supermarket shoppers in England and Wales lack loyalty towards any of the big six supermarkets at which they shop. This represents 20% of the nations' 45 million regular supermarket shoppers.
In particular, it shows that Waitrose has the least loyal customer base, with 23% of its two million regular customers classed as 'Swapper Shoppers' - who are likely to shop with a rival. At a regional level, Waitrose faces its biggest challenge in London and the South East, where its customer propensity to switch supermarkets is especially high.
It is no coincidence then that out of all the supermarkets, Waitrose shifted its media spend the greatest during January. It makes sense for a supermarket that centres on a particular region to increase its Door Drop spend, which Waitrose did by 150%.
What makes less sense is that unlike most of the other supermarkets, Waitrose dropped its online spend by a massive 92% after having enjoyed such a good Christmas. This is also especially surprising because when deployed intelligently, online media can be used to carefully target down to regional and even city level, and create ongoing interactions with people. Both are things that would benefit the supermarket hugely, given its under pressure in London and the South East from 'Swapper Shoppers'.
Waitrose is also swimming against the tide when it comes to online media spend. Most of the other supermarkets are taking advantage of this precision targeting and conversation creation, having increased their online media spend in January. This rise was led most impressively by Tesco. The UK's biggest supermarket spent a fifth of its media budget online and increased its spend by nearly 60%. Marks and Spencer and Asda each joined Tesco in dramatically increasing their internet spend.