Multi-platform research

Insight and analysis into the roles of multi-platform newsbrands in delivering effective advertising.

Tesco - Horsemeat: National Crisis Averted

How a bold media strategy, with newspapers at its heart, allowed Tesco to regain the trust of millions of customers.

At the start of 2013, a story hit the news and dominated the headlines for weeks on end: horsemeat had been found in Tesco burgers. It was a story that had the potential to cause significant damage to the UK's biggest retailer, unless handled with extreme care.

With news of the 'horsemeat scandal' spreading, Tesco had no time to waste. Unless the supermarket responded immediately, the long-term health of the business would be at risk. Media would be crucial in guiding that response, and newspapers (the medium fuelling the horsemeat story and inciting the public debate) were at the heart of it all. With a bold and honest approach, and an 'always-on' mentality, the company used news advertising to issue a sincere apology, position Tesco as a thought leader and restore customers' faith.

In the week following 17 January, Tesco saw a dramatic drop in convenience food sales. However, this could have been the precursor to a much bigger problem for the retailer. As it was, two months on, overall footfall and sales were back in line with previous forecasts. Suggesting that disaster was well and truly averted.

Key findings

  • The press coverage we achieved at each stage of the campaign showed that the public was noticing and reacting - in a positive way
  • Research showed that customers thought Tesco dealt with the crisis better than its competitors
  • Tesco newspaper ads were considered 'easy to understand', 'informative' and 'credible', and half of the customers Tesco spoke to said it had 'addressed their concerns'
  • Over 11,000 customers 'liked' Tesco's Facebook apology
  • Two months after the 'scandal' footfall and sales were back in line with previous forecasts

This campaign helped us to demonstrate thought leadership at a very difficult time for the business. Putting newspapers at the heart of our media activity allowed us to demonstrate how we were taking responsibility for events as they unfolded, so much so that our adverts went way beyond advertising to actually become the news.

Angela Porter, head of brand advertising, Tesco

Get in touch

3rd Floor
3 Marshalsea Road

0203 949 7470


Keep up to date

Please take a minute to answer a few questions on our new website. The feedback you provide will help us make the website easier for you to navigate and ensure you can find the content you’re after. In addition, we’ll enter you in to a prize draw for a £100 Amazon voucher*.

Take Survey Not now Never