The Very Model of Efficiency in Cut and Thrust World of Retail; BACKGROUND John Revill Argues That Canny Marketing Has Saved M&S's Bacon
Byline: John Revill
Marks & Spencer's recovery is due in no small measure to its enormously successful advertising campaigns. Glamorous ads featuring 1960s icon Twiggy and models Erin O'Connor and Lizzie Jagger have been credited with making M&S fashionable again.
Meanwhile, the firm's food ads with their much-parodied voice-over: "This is not just food, this is M&S food" said in incredibly sexy husky tones led to an astonishing 3,500 per cent increase in the sale of chocolate puddings.
It was not always thus. M&S, formed in 1894, was a company that had eschewed television advertising believing it was such a household name it could carry on through reputation.
But following a profits peak in the late nineties, M&S started to lose touch with its customers who increasingly saw it as stuffy and old-fashioned. Profits slumped from more than pounds 1 billion in 1997 and 1998 to pounds 145 million for the year to March 31, 2001.
Three years ago, M&S launched a television ad campaign featuring a naked woman running up a hill that did not really work.
David Wethey, chairman of Agency Assessments International, said: "M&S was one of the famous companies that didn't believe in advertising."
He said the main problem with the naked woman ad was that nothing had changed in the stores.
"It was an attempt to change the image without changing the product," he said.
When chief executive Stuart Rose took over in 2004 to help stave off a takeover bid from Sir Philip Green he introduced the firm's Your M&S' catchline and increased the firm's advertising spend massively.
Marketing manager Steve Sharp has worked alongside James Murphy of M&S's longterm ad agency RKCR/Y&R to mastermind the turnaround.
Figures from Nielsen Media Research show that in the last year M&S spent pounds 61,659,629 on advertising. …