Total ad spend in the 4 wks to 24 Dec was up 20% on previous yr.
Supermarket advertising was one of the few sectors to grow in 2008 and this trend continued in the lead-up to Christmas. Between them, the seven retailers listed spent an additional £6.3m year-on-year in the four weeks to Christmas Eve – a 20% rise on 2007.

Tesco and Asda were the big spenders over the year as a whole, and both continued to splash the cash as the festive season arrived. In the run-up to Christmas, both spent in excess of £9m. For Asda, this represented a 45% increase on the previous year, while for Tesco it was a more restrained 16% increase.

But banking the most on the pre-Christmas season was Marks & Spencer. In one month, its spend of £5m represented a quarter of its budget for the whole year and was up £2m on 2007. The spend was mostly accounted for by a 60-second celebrity-packed extravaganza, complemented by low-key voiceover-led ads from Joan Collins and Michael Parkinson, among others. Sales still fell: down 7%.

In contrast, Sainsbury's, trimmed back its festive advertising to just 9% of its annual spend. While featuring Jamie Oliver with guest celebs Ant and Dec it ploughed most of its budget pushing in-store promotions on seasonal items. Sales were up 4.5%.

Also cutting ad spend with no apparent ill effect was Morrisons. Its £5.2m spend was higher than Sainsbury's but a 19% cut compared with 2007, yet the momentum continued for the Bradford retailer, with TNS data showing 9.3% growth.

Asda’s big budget ad, to the tune of Bing Crosby’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas brought a feelgood factor to its normally single-minded price-proposition, yet it also managed to remind viewers of its budget credentials, while a supplementary short added festive Christmas decorations to the big green arrows it’s been using so successfully for so long.

Continuity doesn’t seem to be the watchword at Tesco, however. As Des O’Connor sang ‘Merry Christmas to you’ in his living room, big red discs advertising discounts on food, drink and gifts continually popped up and obscured the ageing crooner and former Countdown host. It brought a lighthearted, humorous note to its advertising that hasn’t been seen for a while. But ‘Britain’s Biggest Discounter’? The strapline was nowhere to be seen.