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M&S unveils first-ever denim TV ad as bid to revive troubled clothing arm continues

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has invested in its first-ever stand-alone TV ad for its biggest product category, denim, as it marches on with a transformation strategy focused on touting “killer categories”.

M&S claims to serve one-in-10 denim shoppers in the UK and ‘Start a Denim Love Affair’ is the third marketing campaign focused on this offering in less than a year. However, in a statement, M&S said the creative has seen it courted double the marketing investment of previous campaigns and double the buy of the product in support.

The push also marks the retailer’s first campaign for several years outside of Christmas to spotlight womenswear, menswear and kidswear together. The stylish spot was created by ODD, which took over the M&S Clothing brief from Grey London in 2019.

Currently the retailer sells 15 pairs of jeans every minute and is the market leader for womenswear denim. Though, when customers are asked to name a brand for denim, M&S ranks just fourth out of a possible 21 options.

Along with a TV ad, campaigns will run in-store, on social, online and OOH to boost awareness. 97% of M&S’s target customers will see the campaign on average 13 times. The digital execution plan is built around data – showing customers the most relevant copy to ensure a more personalised delivery of the adverts than ever before from M&S.

In the run up to Christmas, the retailer unveiled similar upbeat TV slots centered around knitwear and sleepwear to turn around its clothing sales which were down 5% year-on-year in November.

Though M&S has been bringing its marketing and supply chain closer together, its post-festive figures showed year-for-year sales to have fallen by 1.7% over the crucial trading period owing to stock-buying errors and rivals’ Christmas discounts.

A 'killer category'?

Launching in Valentines’ month, its latest TV ad shows 15 dancers highlighting the very best of M&S’s denim offer to Donna Summer’s classic I Feel Love. It’s a concept that follows strong customer feedback that the dancing in M&S’ ‘Go Jumpers’ Christmas campaign helped consumers engage with the brand (with the spot having performed in the top 2% for engagement according to Kantar data).

The music and visuals of the ad are upbeat, optimistically looking towards spring “alongside the shifting consumer mindset at this time of year”.

Nathan Ansell, M&S’s Clothing and Home marketing director said, “Denim is a real killer category for us and that means it should be backed with a killer marketing campaign.

“The upbeat and optimistic creative aims to help make us front of mind with our target-customer with an unmissable campaign. Valentine’s Day is traditionally known as a time for flowers and chocolates but who doesn’t fall in love with a pair of great fitting jeans?”

The campaign will run through the whole of February – with fresh marketing imagery released later in the month to support the launch a new M&S’s denim product dubbed ‘the Magic Jean’.

In April 2018, M&S 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 Ansell and Sharry Cramond respectively, who report into divisional managing directors.

Plagued by supply chain issues that have seen clothing stock short and customers disappointed, M&S has been looking to better connect the dots between its digital marketing efforts and its merchandising following the restructure.

In a bid to alleviate the issues, the brand not only appointed search agency NMPi last year, but has also started the process of building its own SEO team to handle organic search.

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