M&S CMO on agency relationships and putting the fun back into marketing to women

Nathan Ansell: M&S marketing director for clothing and home
Nathan Ansell: M&S marketing director for clothing and home

As Holly Willoughby launches her 'must-have' items for the retailer, Nathan Ansell tells Campaign about how M&S is changing its approach to marketing.

Nathan Ansell, marketing director, clothing and home, at Marks & Spencer, says the company needs to work in a more integrated and dynamic way with its agencies. Agile, mobile-first marketing demands that brands create a culture in which the traditional distinctions between client and agency are broken down.

He explains: "We have gone through significant internal changes in order to create a cross-functional newsroom approach, where we work across different business functions. As a retailer, we need to know what has sold out in real time and marketing must have a broad reach and run on an hour-by-hour basis."

According to Ansell, it's a shift in approach that means most of M&S's agency partners work in the brand's office. He adds: "I would say now if you walked onto our floor, it would be difficult to differentiate between our agency and in-house teams."

The shift to mobile first

Holly Willoughby at the launch of her 'must-haves'

Ansell, who was talking at the launch of new brand ambassador Holly Willoughby's "must-haves" for autumn, says that all of M&S's advertising briefs are now mobile first. He explains: "We are always pressure-testing the customer journey via mobile and that means the first question we ask at any shoot is: will it work on mobile? Traditional TV is still a great way to connect, but our customers are mobile first."

Indeed, Ansell says that 75% of M&S's traffic is via mobile or tablet.

Putting the fun back into marketing to women

The retailer is also in the midst of a fundamental shift in marketing to women. 

The key to the decision to sign Willoughby, Ansell explains, is that she is not just aspirational but accessible.

He continues: "Increasingly, fashion has fewer rules and it's more about how you feel and having courage and confidence about your own style."

This shift means it is vital for M&S to have a "sense of fun" around its campaigns in order to inspire women, as opposed to taking a prescriptive approach.

The age of influence

Amid signs of backlash to the ever-increasing range of influencer marketing on Instagram, Ansell believes that transparency is key.

"From our perspective, we just believe in being super-transparent," he states.

According to Ansell, Instagram shopping is an important part of the retailer's marketing mix. The brand is also working with Google on local inventory marketing to enable consumers to see what is in stock in real time.

The launch of Willoughby's must-have picks follows the unveiling of M&S's "must haves" ad campaign earlier this month.

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