Waitrose - the high end grocery store in the UK - has announced a new partnership with Channel 4 with their first full TV series ”Weekend Kitchen”. It features Michel Roux, who recently quit the BBC due to “commercial interests” and other members of UK Chef Royalty (Heston, Delia…).
"Native advertising" (or publisher-produced brand content) is not a new concept but it’s becoming the go-to strategy for brands wrestling to win the hearts and mins of consumers. (Funny, some of my first PR successes as a young account executive were editorials (or advertorials as we called them) in the UK nationals. In an interview at Fallon, I shared my portfolio and the interviewer - who was running the Lee Jeans account at the time - was astounded that we created such coverage with no ad buy. I shrugged, saying it was just the way we built relationships with our media, and the way our media worked with us. I swear to this day that the interview thought I’d fabricated that coverage!)
Waitrose has been employing a more organic strategy recently - using charity and nature as communications cornerstones and creating low-fi spots while donating the millions that it would have otherwise used to charity. Its latest recent campaign promoted the company’s employee-owned structure and was sweet, authentic and emotive (although nowhere near as popular in social channels as the Disney-like John Lewis mega-productions.
The editorial approach for Weekend Kitchen will need to balance its Chef Power with this more organic approach. Roux and Co will need to be real, and emotionally connective with the audience - not just an extension of a product placement. The bigger question is - do Waitrose shoppers still need chefs to show them how to use ingredients? (Sainsbury’s used Jamie Oliver for 11 years at a cost of over $15m). With the saturated UK cookery show market, will “Weekend Kitchen” viewers even differentiate from “Saturday Kitchen”? My guess is no. But, nonetheless, Waitrose is smartly covering its bases - this spectrum of exclusivity -> organic roots, should give them the depth and breath needed to stay in the fight.