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M&S clothing and home shirks TV for digital and radio focussed Christmas message

What does M&S clothing and home have planned this Christmas?

M&S is to cap a dismal 2020 by scrapping an exuberant festive set-piece on television in favour of a series of low key search, radio and social media ads.The chastened approach comes as the retailer slumps to an $87.6m pre-tax loss in the first six months, forcing it to chase audiences and customers using digital means.

M&S is set to cap a difficult 2020 by scrapping its usual exuberant, festive TV spot in favour of a series of low key search, radio and social media ads.

The chastened approach comes as the retailer slumps to an $87.6m pre-tax loss in the first six months, forcing it to chase audiences and customers using digital means.

What does M&S clothing and home have planned this Christmas?

  • M&S is foregoing a bombastic TV Christmas spectacular this year as the retailer responds to chastened times with more humble search and social media initiatives.

  • The shift to digital echoes broader changes wrought throughout the year, particularly in the retailers clothing and home business, although a food ad from Grey London will go ahead as planned.

  • Instead, a mix of channels from print to shop windows and Pinterest will be embraced to capitalise on a resurgence in QR codes that funnel shoppers directly to the M&S festive range.

  • Amid ongoing restrictions on movement, M&S.com will be promoted heavily as the main focus for the business, bolstered by a contactless click and collect trial as well as a refreshed online look.

  • The new approach is embodied by a successful Instagram post from brand ambassador Holly Willoughby, who struck a domestic stance to promote the retailers autumn range in which her children served as art directors and photographers.

  • This will see Willoughby front a video soapbox to speak directly to the nation and declare 'baubles to 2020' in a defiant call for festive celebrations not to be derailed.

  • In doing so Willoughby will showcase a range of products targetted at particular demographics based on search data and the in-house Sparks loyalty scheme.

So no big sparkly TV push for M&S clothing this year?

  • 2020's spartan approach contrasts markedly with last year when M&S appointed new agency ODD to oversee a major TV knitwear push to emphasise its class-leading jumper department.

  • Illustrating how far the sands of consumer behaviour have shifted IAB data shows online video consumption has rocketed by 40% and video-on-demand usage by 38% during lockdown.

  • Traditional mediums haven't been entirely forgotten with radio featuring heavily in the Christmas gameplan, on the back of Radio Centre data indicating a 38% rise in listeners over lockdown.

  • Audio approaches will also employ a heavy regional emphasis, employing accents and phrases which have been digitally stitched together automatically according to what it believes consumers will respond to best.

  • By way of example, M&S will speak to a customer in Cardiff with the message “Santa sliding down chimneys from Roath to Llanishen” whereas in Liverpool this would be reworded as “Aintree to Allerton”.

  • Emphasising its local credentials M&S states that it has established over 350 individual store Facebook pages since the onset of the pandemic, which cumulatively reach up to a million potential customers each week.

  • Armed with this knowledge will utilise Finecast to reach out to these viewers directly on services such as 4OD and iPlayer with a series of short social media-friendly videos - with a particular emphasis on YouTube pre-roll slots.

  • Summing up the changed approach Nathan Ansell, M&S’s clothing & home marketing director said, “Whilst Christmas may feel different this year, we know our customers want to make it special for the ones they love, and that spirit is at the heart our campaign. We’re utilising a range of channels to reach our customers and with a digital media focus our aim is to tap into customers as they’re in a ‘scrolling & shopping’ mindset, inspiring them with festive gifts for all the family.”

A tough year for M&S

  • M&S has been hit harder than most by the pandemic, racking up a half-year pre-tax loss of £87.6m on the back of lockdown restrictions and broader economic uncertainty.

  • This is the first time the company has slumped to a loss in 94 years as a publicly listed company, breeding invention by necessity.

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