You can’t miss the double page ads Tesco has taken out in newspapers ranging from The Times to the Evening Standard. The supermarket chain is very sorry and it’s written what looks like a poem explaining just how sorry it is (while ensuring a few positives make it into the apology as well).
But I don’t think this is just an apology – I think this is about Tesco needing to be seen apologising. I’ve already heard Tesco’s CEO Philip Clarke proclaiming on BBC Breakfast newsthat Tesco has taken full page ads in the national press – using this as a way of showing just how seriously Tesco is taking horsegate. But, once you dig a little deeper into Tesco’s comms efforts, its Twitter response is notably lacking.
The format of the advert and the call to action are what make me think this is little more than a publicity stunt. Big double page, centre spread demonstrations of remorse are all well and good, but who are you reaching by doing this? If this is an exercise designed to inform as many consumers as possible, why didn’t Tesco advertise its message of apology online with the same publications it’s taken print ads with? And why has its Twitter response been so poor? At the end of the ad the reader is asked to contact Tesco ‘for anything you want to know’. It then lists its main Twitter address: @uktesco. This account, which is referenced in all of its ads, has been virtually silent. In the month after the story broke there were 123,968 mentions of horsemeat and Tesco on Twitter. How many proactive tweets were there from @uktesco on the matter in the same period of time? None.
This is surely an opportunity missed and reinforces my belief that Tesco feels that being seen to apologise is more important than using every means available to communicate with its customers.
It often takes a crisis to put things in perspective – Tesco needs to sort its social media efforts.