Asda selects WS and GPlus for public affairs

LONDON/BRUSSELS: Asda has pulled its public affairs account out of GPC International, awarding Weber Shandwick’s Strategic Media Group the business in Westminster and independent lobby firm GPlus Europe the remit in the EU.

The switch comes as Britain’s second biggest supermarket chain faces major challenges to uphold its reputation to government and NGOs.

The agencies will be tasked with communicating Asda’s contribution to promoting healthy lifestyles and regenerating local communities.

Asda has put fruit at the checkouts of some of its stores in a bid to appease critics that the conventional positioning of confectionery compounds the obesity problem among children.

On the regeneration front, it is eager to stress the positive role opening supermarkets has in creating jobs and reviving urban areas.

The agencies will also be expected to ensure Asda is seen to treat its multitude of suppliers fairly.

In addition, it is understood it wants to reinforce its positioning as the UK’s best value supermarket. Last month, the Wal Mart-owned chain unleashed a £40m price-cutting drive across all areas of its business, from grocery to health and beauty to clothing.

In the EU it needs to comply with a host of food safety regulations.

Executive board director for external affairs John Longworth and head of government relations Bernard Hughes, both former Tesco PROs, oversaw the account switch.

Longworth joined Asda in November while Hughes came on board last July from Edelman, where he was European director of public affairs. GPC International held the Asda account for three-and-a-half years. Hughes confirmed the appointments but refused to divulge details.

WS’s Strategic Media Group is led by former Sunday Times political editor Michael Prescott. GPlus Europe account director Rory Macrae is leading the Brussels account.

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