A big help to Tesco

Story of the film

This film tells the story of Tesco’s IPA Effectiveness Award winning paper from 2000 and is part a series celebrating some of the top case studies from 30 years of the IPA Effectiveness Awards; brilliant campaigns that still have much to teach us about planning effective communications today.

Here we explore Tesco's advertising from 1990 to 1999, a period when Tesco's turnover increased from £8 bn to £17.4 bn and its share rose from 9.1% to 15.4%, overtaking Sainsbury to become market leader in 1995 and a truly effective campaign.


Back in the early 1980s, Tesco was a lack-luster number two, still piling it high, and selling it cheap. It was perceived to be basic groceries that bore no comparison with the sophisticated lines that the market leader, Sainsbury’s, stocked. Yet Tesco had set their sights on market leadership. They initiated a major programme to counteract their key weakness - quality.

The first task was to persuade shoppers who did not shop at Tesco that it was a) credible and b) emotionally OK to shop there. The launch TV campaign of this phase, with Dudley Moore, concentrated on product quality, featuring a series of individual products. The campaign was very impactful peaking at 89% awareness and achieved significant improvement in quality image (which reflected the in-store changes).

The film goes on to describe how the strategy evolved to improve the whole shopping experience, which gave rise to the 'Every Little Helps' ads. Following this, 1995 saw the launch of the famous 'Dotty' campaign (with Prunella Scales), comprising some 25 executions, that consolidated Tesco leadership in line with the 'Every Little Helps' philosophy. This flexible campaign allowed Tesco to communicate various aspects of service, including quality, range, value for money and, of course, their Clubcard. In essence, Dotty gave Tesco and, importantly, its staff, the opportunity to shine. Danny Donovan describes the thinking about the media strategy, and how TV was used to make Dotty popular.

The results speak for themselves. ‘Every little helps’ helped Tesco’s attract 1.3 million new customers in the period from 1990-1995 whilst analysis of the ‘Dotty’ campaign shows that for every £1 invested a staggering £38 was created in incremental profit. 

As well as customers, the campaign achieved good effects on staff morale, attracting quality marketers to join Tesco, directly affected the share price and allowed the brand top move into non-grocery sectors where brand credibility is a key requirement

One thing that shines through in this film is how the reality of the Tesco business and the content of their communication moved in tandem.

Here are some quotes from the IPA’s Value of Advertising Group about the Tesco campaign:


Still the most influential business-changing idea in British communications history

Andy Nairn



I love the idea of communications being single-mindedly aimed at non-shoppers as a substitute for store experience.

Richard Storey



To learn about how to do the ultimate 'retail idea as skewer' - across time, across service product and price, across new ventures and across internal and external stakeholders. All put together into one of the most sophisticated economical models ever seen in an IPA paper.

Nick Kendall

Appearing on film:

Titles were correct at the time of publish date

  • Carolyn Bradley, UK Marketing Director, Tesco
  • Danny Donovan, Managing Director UK, Initiative
  • Joanna Bamford, Freelance Planner
  • Gerry Moira, Chairman and Director of Creativity, Euro RSCG London
  • Neil Dawson, Founder, Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer
  • David Golding, Founding Partner, Adam & Eve
  • Andy Nairn, Former Executive Planning Director Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy


The majority of this film is based on an award winning IPA paper. Here the details.

Full Title: How 'Every little helps' was a big help to Tesco

Awards: 2000 IPA Effectiveness Awards, Grand Prix

Client: Tesco Stores Ltd

Agency: Lowe Lintas

Authors: Ashleye Sharpe and Joanna Bamford

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