Magazine article Marketing

Profile: The Common-Sense Approach - Rick Bendel, Group Executive Marketing Director, Asda

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: The Common-Sense Approach - Rick Bendel, Group Executive Marketing Director, Asda

Article excerpt

Few cosseted ad men would give up their cushy Soho life for the wilds of marketing in Yorkshire. Rick Bendel, however, thinks his move from the role of chief operating officer at Publicis Worldwide to the position of group executive marketing director at Asda was long overdue.

'I was offered the job 16 years ago,' says Bendel, who has been wedded to the Asda business since the early 90s, when he worked on its ad account at Publicis. 'That is when my love affair with the company began.'

Back then, Bendel acted as a surrogate marketing director for Asda chief executives Archie Norman and Allan Leighton, who worked to revitalise the ailing retailer prior to its 1999 Wal-Mart takeover. Their efforts paid off, and by 2003 the least glamorous of the big four supermarkets had overtaken Sainsbury's as the UK's second biggest chain.

Bendel is credited for much of the activity that led to Asda's turnaround. 'We turned everything on its head back then,' he says. 'When I started as marketing director, it felt as though I was joining a company I created.'

He has wasted no time in making his mark on the company for a second time following his appointment in October 2006 by chief executive Andy Bond. Two months after joining, he shifted Asda's ad account out of Publicis to sibling agency Fallon, sending shock waves through the ad industry and raising questions about his relationship with his previous employer.

'Whether people think I'm the butcher of Leeds or the visionary of the world, I did it because it was the right thing for the brand,' he says, adding that he had no direct involvement with the Asda ad business for four years prior to leaving Publicis, as his duties as worldwide chief operating officer took him away from the day-to-day running of the account.

Bendel was keen to move away from the pocket-slapping, change-jangling mnemonic created by Publicis. The much-anticipated 'There's no place like Asda' campaign that followed, featuring well-loved celebrities, including football pundit Ian Wright, working in the supermarket, made a refreshing change. It set out to 'make the stores the hero' and position the supermarket as a common-sense alternative to 'elitist' rivals such as Marks & Spencer.

Bendel, who spends 50% of his working time in-store, has returned Asda to its price-focused roots this year, with ads that use mySupermarket. …

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