M&S shifts tactics to reach ‘Mrs M&S’ and pins hopes on emotional Christmas ad

Marks and Spencer (M&S) has admitted that last year’s modern and fast-paced Christmas campaign fell flat, with customers left feeling “detached”. This year, the embattled retailer has pinned its hopes on an emotional story about a little boy who writes to ‘Mrs Claus’ in a bid to inject some “warmth” into the brand.

The advert was revealed at a screening in London earlier today (11 November), where Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of customer, marketing & M&S.com said: “We know that emotional campaigns build stronger brands over time but we also know they drive sales and conversion. In the busy retail world when we’re all about selling product we felt establishing an emotional connection was very important.”

Earlier this week, the retailer suffered as it reported another set falling sales and profits, down 18.6% in the first half of the year, which forced it to announce the closure of 30 shops.

The ad it hopes will kickstart its revival during what is the most important season for M&S tells the story of Jake, who’s spent the last year squabbling with his sister Anna. As Christmas approaches, Jake writes to Mrs Claus (played by British actor Janet McTeer) to help him give her the perfect gift. The ad then follows Mrs Claus as she flies from Lapland across London in her helicopter to deliver the present.

“Mrs Clause sits at the heart of the campaign. She’s designed to connect with the customer, like them, she wants to make Christmas come alive in a magical way,” said Bousquet-Chavanne, adding actress McTeer was chosen for being “ageless and accessible with style and wit” (reflecting the so-called ‘Mrs M&S' that chief executive Steve Rowe admitted earlier this year is who the brand had forgotten in its quest to become a modern retailer).

It's one of the most ambitious campaigns the retailer has undertaken (although its spend is much “comparibly less” than last year) as it tries to reach 99% of UK population over the course of the season.

The ad will air for the first time tonight (11 November) on a dedicated Channel 4 ad break during Gogglebox. Viewers will be shown the ad followed by a co-branded spot narrated by David Mitchell, which sees Mrs Claus give seasonal style tips to the channel’s best known stars, like Dawn O’Porter, Location, Location,Location duo Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer alongside Jimmy Doherty.

It will be supported by a social campaign overseen by a team in a ‘Christmas warroom’ that will aim to bring the character to life across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #LoveMrsClause. On Twitter there is a specially created ‘Mrs Claus’ emoji that will accompany posts that include the hashtag.

There will also be targeted press, digital-out-of-home and a wave of online activity that the retailer believes will make it one of the most mobile-first executions it has ever achieved.

Meanwhile, in-store it has asked its staff to carry out random acts of kindness, such as giving someone a free coffee. Some 15,000 customers will be “touched” through these acts of kindness and for each one they will also be told a £5 donation will go to a charity of their choice.

The campaign will be aligned with activity running for M&S Food, which hasn't strayed from the long-running ‘Adventures In’ positioning.

It marks the last campaign to come from RKCR/ Y&R, the retailer's agency of 16-years that was recently replaced by Grey London.

See more of this year's Christmas adverts here.

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