M&S hunts ad agency as it shakes up roster to reflect internal restructure

Grey London's first advert for M&S, which featured Paddington Bear

Marks and Spencer (M&S) is on the hunt for a creative agency to manage its clothing and home business, a blow to Grey London which has handled the retailer's combined food and non-food accounts for just two years.

The move comes after a significant shake-up of M&S’ internal marketing function nine months ago.

Last April, it ditched the top-down structure that had been led by now-departed group chief marketing officer Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne in favour of separate clothing and food functions, led by Nathan Ansell and Sharry Cramond respectively, who report into divisional managing directors.

Grey will continue to work on the food account, M&S said. However, it has taken its clothing and home business out to tender in a process that’s being led by Ansell.

An M&S spokesperson said: “As we transform M&S, our clothing and home and food businesses have been reshaped to create clear and accountable businesses.

“In line with this, we have put our clothing and home creative brief out to tender, as we continue to restore our style credentials and make M&S more relevant, more often to more customers. We’re proud of the campaigns we have created with Grey and it remains the retained creative agency for our food business.”

Grey has been behind some of M&S’ most memorable ads, including its festive work featuring Paddington Bear.

But since the restructure, Ansell and Cramond have been radical in their approach to breathing fresh life into the brand and have already split the creative approach. The former drafted in Holly Willoughby as an ambassador for Christmas 2018, while Crammond has focused on how the brand can better use digital channels to showcase its products to customers.

Their efforts come as sales at the business continue to fall. In November, it reported a drop of 2.9% and 1.1% across clothing and food divisions respectively for the first half of 2018. Boss Steve Rowe warned investors that conditions were "challenging" and it was "expecting little improvement in sales trajectory."

Whatever agency is hired at the end of the review process will likely be asked to focus less on "blockbuster" TV campaigns which Rowe believes consumers "are starting to see through".

The agency shake-up marks the latest pitch to be run by M&S as it tries to improve its financial outlook.

Earlier this year, it revealed plans to build an in-house SEO function, ending its relationship with iCrossing, while also it putting paid search (PPC) account up for pitch.

Mindshare continues to handle M&S combined media account.

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