iris Head of Planning, Sophie Lewis, explains via Retail Week why the new M&S advertising campaign is not the desired silver bullet.
I have been looking forward to the new M&S campaign with interest since March, when Vicki Maguire, the joint chief creative officer of Grey, the retailer’s agency, revealed it would be about ‘attitude, not age’.
Imagine that, planners of the world, an idea based on an attitude?
Next you’ll be telling me that men and women are equal, or we can go to the Moon or that a man who wears badly applied fake-tan and doesn’t know the difference between Syria and Iraq can be President of the USA.
And this piece is nominally about the new communications idea ‘Spend it Well’, an idea which seems to sort-of work for both food and clothing.
Although in truth, as we know, clothing has way more to gain from food than the other way round.
We start with a baby and the classic manifesto opener ‘Someone wise once said, life is short’.
And we then get quickly on to the fact that we should say ‘No’ more, to all sorts of stuff. Like uncomfortable knickers, shoes, etc. Oh right, I get it.
Will it solve M&S’ clothing woes?
The M&S Food offering is very nice, thank you and does a great job in terms of innovation and newness.
The one at Brighton Station is funded by me and all the other commuters furiously bulk-buying ready meals and wine on the way home.
The problems are all about clothing.
The ad’s not bad – although some of the styling and the ‘Ten-feet tall’ flying bit look awkward to me. And whilst it purports to be a unification of food and clothing, there will be separate executions later in the campaign.
Actually, I saw a clothing print ad yesterday. Nice styling, the clothes looked good. But this is where it all starts to fall down for me.
I scrutinised it. From memory, it was a yellow top, striped skirt and a flat, silver two-strap sandal with a line about ‘Walking tall, even in flats’.
And even though it is nicely styled and shot, I could still tell that both items were made from (sharp intake of breath) synthetic fabrics.
The problem is, and has been for some time, with the stores and the product.
Communications is just the old-school maraschino cherry on top of the slightly confused cake. Because at the moment, buying knickers, shoes, clothing from M&S isn’t spending it well.
Oh no, you don’t need to explain. I know Autograph and Limited Edition, I know Signature and Per Una, I know a brief foray into British made classics.
Oh and Alexa’s vintage-y range. And Rosie H-W. I know them all. I just don’t want them.
The clothing problem at M&S is eternal. It’s not about the pink coat or the brown suede skirt and those momentary flirtations with the editor of Vogue.
It’s about a strategy for womens’ clothing and designers who genuinely transform the business such that I want to go there.
Women don’t need another manifesto
I know, I know, it’s easy to throw stones. What would I do?
I’d make some choices. The world probably doesn’t need another manifesto. And we definitely don’t need another shot of a woman in a bikini top at a festival or women in general being empowered.
I’d say ‘No’ a bit more. I’d stop being scared of losing my loyals and think more about my 22 million occasionals.
Give me brands (you’ve done it in food, why not clothing?), give me collabs (no not Alexa or Rosie, they don’t have the sort of clothing credentials I mean).
Failing that, I’d bring Queen Jane Shepherdson back from wherever she is. If she can’t fix it, no-one can.
I’d get my house in order and then I’d worry about my communications.