M&S revives 'food porn' ads with a modern twist

After a 12-year hiatus, Marks & Spencer (M&S) has brought its indulgent 'food porn' ads back to TV screens, putting a modern twist on the famous strapline: 'This is Not Just Food... This is M&S Food'.

The retailer is hoping the comeback will stave off slumping sales, which fell by 2.1% over the crucial Christmas trading period, by broadening the appeal of M&S Food.

Created by Grey London, the new campaign champions various M&S products, including cauliflower cheese, salmon and trifle. It shows various customers in key moments, daydreaming about M&S food, with explicit nods to the original campaign.

Charlie Stubbings, who shot the first round of ads, and Guy Manwaring were brought on-board as directors. Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, also part of the original ad score, can be heard in the background too. While there's no enigmatic voiceover, the characters in the spot all attempt their own version of it.

First introduced by RKCR/Y&R in 2005, and featuring scrumptious slow-motion close-ups of molten deserts and pasta drizzled in sauce, the 'This is Not just Food...' campaign cemented M&S' status as a premium grocer.

It was long-running and highly-successful, boosting sales of the brand's melting middle chocolate pudding by 3500% (thanks to the spot below). It also kickstarted a generation of 'food porn' before Instagram, or sites like BuzzFeed Tasty, were even a concept.

Fast-forward just over a decade and the upmarket grocer wants to stoke nostalgia while ensuring that the "warm and humorous" people-centric moments in the creative help establish its status as a current, and relevant, retailer.

After debuting on social, the hero TV campaign will launch during ITV's This Morning on Wednesday (3 April), with online and radio executions to follow. Print ads and new look in-store marketing will support the push, and customers will be encouraged to engage with social content and activities online.

The launch comes as M&S Food gears up for its first big national TV sponsorship deal with Britain's Got Talent, for which the idents will reflect its new positioning as a brand to be enjoyed by families regularly, instead of just as a treat.

A new direction

The relaunch marks M&S Food's first major strategy pivot since it internally splintered the food business out from its clothing and home division last April.

At the time, it put the department under the watch of marketing director Sharry Crammond and appointed Nathan Ansell to lead food and clothing and home marketing respectively.

Until now, and under Grey London, M&S Food has been focused on a series of high-octane ads imploring customers to 'Spend it Well'. The tagline was focused on quality and designed to inspire and enable people to 'make every moment special by focusing on the quality experiences, people and things that really matter'.

It's 2018 Christmas M&S revealed its Christmas food campaign deviated from this approach, using real-life customers for the first time in an unscripted ad.

Until last week, Grey London held both the M&S food and non-food accounts, pushing them under the 'Spend it Well' proposition.

However, to reflect the changes going in-house M&S held a pitch for its clothing and home business and appointed indie agency ODD to handle the brief, dealing a blow to Grey.

During her time at M&S Food Crammond has been focused on how the brand can better use digital channels to showcase its products to customers.

As part of its ongoing internal shakeup, the brand recently also brought search in-house in order to better connect the dots between its marketing and supply chain.

You can view some of the original 'This is Not Just Food...' ads below.

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