M&S celebrates dropping 'blockbuster' Christmas ad

Retailer says focusing on product ads reflects today's consumer.

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe believes a focus on product has helped the brand resonate more with customers after it decided against making a blockbuster Christmas ad.

The retailer eschewed its usual tactic of competing with John Lewis’ Christmas campaign by running two separate festive ads for its general merchandise and food businesses.

The general merchandise spot featured Holly Willoughby and David Gandy, and centred on "must have" items – a tactic that Rowe said has paid off.

M&S revealed its third-quarter trading results this morning and while like-for-like sales for the 13 weeks to 29 December were down 2.2%, the drop was not as big as analysts had feared.

Like-for-like food sales dropped 2.1%, while clothing and home fell 2.4%.

Rowe said: "We saw record sales of advertised lines and what is important is we moved away from the big blockbuster campaign film into something that resonated with our customer this time, which was more about product.

"And we think that has picked up on the customer mindset at the moment."

Rowe told Campaign that, following the successful product-led festive campaign, there were "no plans" for blockbuster Christmas ads in the future.

M&S sold 1.2 million packs of the mince pies featured in its Christmas campaign, reflecting a 22% year-on-year sales increase.

Rowe added that its prosecco Christmas pudding was selling so fast that it "could not keep hold of the thing".

"Holly is a great fit for M&S: she is a fan of the brand and her style continues to inspire both our customers and viewers, and we saw a positive gain in style perception from her edits," Rowe said. "They have been successful in attracting a slightly younger customer."

M&S sold 12,000 of the leopard-print dress worn by Willoughby in the campaign. Willoughby's collaboration with the retailer has helped M&S gain an additional 80,000 Instagram followers.

In its results statement, M&S also revealed that it received an online sales boost from an "increased focus on digital marketing".

Despite turning away from "blockbuster" brand ads, M&S has been significantly increasing its advertising spend.

The retailer broke into the top 10 advertisers after ramping up spend by 53.2% to £96m, according to figures from Group M for the year to September 2018.

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