Today the advertising regulator sided with Asda in the latest row over Tesco’s ‘real baskets’ campaign.

Previously the ASA ruled that Tesco’s use of slippery terms like ‘real’ (and maybe ‘baskets’) was likely to provoke severe existential angst in shoppers of a philosophical bent.

Today it said Tesco had not provided its rival with enough verifiable evidence to make certain claims about why more of its baskets were cheaper than at Asda, based on a sample of 380 actual shops that may or may not have been representative of a much larger total.

Today’s ruling is pretty technical stuff, underlining the challenges facing the man holding the watchdog’s leash, Guy Parker, who spoke exclusively to The Grocer last month.

Effectively, Tesco will now need to give Asda great swathes of data to make similar claims in future. So Asda has proved its point, up to a point, and Tesco can’t run that ad in that particular form anymore (except maybe online, but that’s another story).

Which is hardly a tragedy in Cheshunt. Never mind the fact the ad referred to a specific date in January so had little repeat value; we’ve never understood the wisdom of pointing out to shoppers that, from two million of these hard-to-define baskets, more than 900,000 would actually be cheaper at Asda.

And Tesco explicitly changed tack a couple of months ago to focus on the quality of its own-label produce. So banning the ad in question is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, caught a taxi to Dover, hopped on a cross-Channel ferry and found its way to a Frenchman’s dinner table.

As Kantar’s Edward Garner noted yesterday: “Recent statements from Asda’s chief executive, Andy Clarke, show the retailer has recognised the need to adjust its strategy and we’ve started to see a greater emphasis on quality in the latest advertising campaign.”

We’re not quite in ‘bald men fighting over a comb’ territory but, to scramble a couple of metaphors, the days of putting all your eggs in the basket market ‘cheapest’ have gone for the time being anyway.

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