• Tesco wanted to position themselves as a credible toy retailer 
  • They combined broadcast TV with online content
  • They increased sales by 10% year on year


Tesco is the UK’s largest retailer, with a weekly footfall of 16 million people. Consequently, Tesco has very good overall awareness and is a firm food-orientated fixture in the everyday lives of millions of people across the country. However, there was very little association between the Tesco brand and toys, even at Christmas. Despite the fact that Tesco had over 15,000 toy products for sale during Christmas 2014, very few people had any idea that Tesco stocked toys at all.

The challenge, therefore, was to create an association with Tesco’s toy range and Christmas gift giving. This would mean pushing Tesco into uncharted territory with an entirely new competitive set, coming up against brands like Argos and Toys R Us who already had a strong association with toys.

They had two clear objectives:

  • Drive consideration of Tesco as a destination for buying toys at Christmas, both among existing Tesco customers and those that normally shop elsewhere.
  • Drive sales of the toys that were most wanted by children at Christmas 2014

The Solution

Extensive research from Tesco’s media agency, Initiative, revealed the different groups of parents that needed to be targeted, which included “strategist parents” – those who like to plan and buy early. However, the peak period for toy searches was early December so any activity would have to cover off both the early and late buyers. They also concluded that buying toys is very much an emotionally driven decision and so they wanted to find a way to use that emotion as a vehicle to communicate the range as well as driving sales.  

TV had to form a part of the communication strategy because it is brilliant at creating an emotional connection with people and is able to reach a large number of parents and children. 

In addition, as a large number of people research toys online, they decided to create some mini films for online that would show children opening ‘must have’ toys.    


They ran two 20 seconds ads on children’s TV channels, including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney Junior. The campaign ran from 15th October to 2nd November as this is a key period for parents planning and buying their children’s main present. They also upweighted weekends in order to take advantage of the increased time available for shopping and searching for toys. 

This was followed up by a 30 second ad across all national stations in the last week of November. The TV activity would not only drive awareness of the range, but would also drive the consumer online to see the mini films.

There were three different spots – one focussed on toys for boys, one on toys for girls and one for both genders. This gave parents and children a chance to see the toy they might really want for Christmas and also demonstrated that, whatever it was, Tesco had it in stock.

They created nine mini films showing real children opening the toy they really wanted. These were hosted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. They targeted users searching for keywords related to toys, Christmas and gifting. 

They also wanted to position Tesco as toy experts, offering help and advice on buying toys at Christmas so they created the hashtag #TescoToyteam to manage and participate in conversations around the content they had produced.  


  • The TV campaign reached 15.9 million housepersons (over 60%) and 2.1 million housepersons with children (31%)
  • Online, there were over 8m views across the entire Toy Team playlist. 2.3m views were opt-in, a result of users actively choosing to play or not to skip the content within social channels.
  • Sales of toys at Tesco increased by 10% year on year over the campaign period

We approached Initiative with a really interesting problem and they came back with an equally interesting approach. The end result was emotive, effective content that was a bit different for Tesco; the business loved the work. We were also impressed by the insight-driven paid digital and TV strategy, and how it was integrated into the broader Christmas planning process and execution

Nick Jackman, Head of Trade and Events Advertising at Tesco


Sector: Retail

Brand: Tesco

Campaign objectives: To build an association with Tesco and toys in the minds of shoppers  

Target Audience: Parents and children

Budget: c. £200k for media

Campaign Dates: The campaign ran from 8th October until 30th November 2014

TV Usage: 20 and 30 second spots

Creative Agency: Initiative and Hoot Comedy (production partner)

Media Agency:  Initiative

You might also like

Shop Responsibly: collaboration in a time of crisis

How agencies, broadcasters and advertisers united to promote shopping responsibly rather than panic buying


The BHF harness the storytelling power of TV

How a one-off AFP raised awareness of the lifesaving work the BHF do and raised donations


McCoy’s Muchos pack a punch without a punchy budget

How McCoy’s created the ‘Tortilla Take Down’ with bespoke creative, comedic talent, selective spots, fun programming and podium positions