Marks & Spencer is featuring 50 different jumpers from its range in the first Christmas ad created by Odd London since it won the retailer’s clothing and home ad account earlier this year.
The initial 60-second spot features a large cast of characters apparently yanked into action by their jumpers, as House of Pain’s 1992 hip hop track Jump Around plays. The sequence starts off with wild, disjointed movements before shifting into a group routine built around a signature movement in which the right shoulder is rolled back and forth.
It was created by Turhan Osman and Nick Stickland, and directed by Jake Nava through Cherry Studios. Nava's credits include Beyoncé’s Single Ladies music video. The media agency is Mindshare.
"Go jumpers" will be followed next week by a second TV ad focusing on another clothing category and will be supported by out-of-home, print, radio and social media activity.
M&S is working with Global’s Heart radio network on a partnership that will see the station’s presenters learn the dance from the campaign, discussing it on the air and through their own social channels. M&S is also working with 20 style influencers, with a combined following of 2.5 million, who will be posting jumper-themed content.
Speaking to Campaign, M&S clothing and home marketing director Nathan Ansell said this year’s campaign benefited from an increased budget that would deliver a reach about a third higher than that of last year.
Ansell said about a third of the campaign’s video spend would go on video-on-demand – a channel that has been in healthy growth this year. On social, the campaign would make more than 150 million impressions, he added.
The long awaited start of the turnaround?
M&S’s near-continuous decline in clothing sales has gone on for so long that it has entered retail folklore. Financial results announced earlier this week revealed a 5.5% drop in clothing and home sales in the six months to September – a dire result caused in large part by major stock availability problems over the summer.
But despite many failed attempts over the years to turn things around, Ansell appeared confident that the business had finally established the changes needed.
"We’re clearer now than we ever have been about who we’re targeting and what’s on offer – the product step-up has been phenomenal," he said. "We’ve simplified the shopping proposition substantially and we’re very clear about what our communications objectives are. What you’ll see is us getting behind some big ideas and really standing out – having a bit of gravitas and energy."
The Christmas campaign, Ansell said, strategically ties into the work already created by Odd, which has been running since September, and has continued with a campaign for the Per Una sub-brand, and another created in-house for the menswear range. "It’s really a chapter of the book, rather than something new," he added.
In terms of product, M&S has reduced its number of sub-ranges and started work to make it easier to navigate its stores, which Ansell admitted "can be a bit tricky to get around".
"The customers we’re targeting already shop with us," he continued. "They tend to shop specific categories; they might not necessarily shop the full breadth of what we do. So I guess our mission from a marketing perspective is to break some of that inertia and [get them to] shop with us more frequently and then become more relevant more often."
But to do this, Ansell said the brand needed to elevate its image. "Customers trust us massively, but for that slightly younger customer we’re just not where we want to be in terms of style and value perceptions," he said. "Since we started that work in the autumn, we’ve seen some of those perceptions improve – a 6% growth in style perceptions, which is good, but there’s a lot to do."
Since M&S operationally separated clothing and home from its food business last year, Ansell said his team had become properly embedded in their side of the business, helping to build stronger working relationships with the buying and merchandising teams – this should help avoid future shortages of popular items.
In terms of the marketing message, he said the brand was now working to be "really consistent and laser-focused. [We’re] really going after some of our big commercial categories and not trying to be something that we’re not. Sometimes in the dim and distant past, we haven’t been as single-minded as that."
Odd choice for some
The decision to appoint Odd, Ansell said, was "not necessarily" due to the agency’s fashion pedigree. "What I was interested in was a partner we could work with to really create fame, and be confident, bold and consistent," he said.
"We want to move fast – the fact they’re a slightly smaller agency than some others on the roster was a great appeal. They know that balance between style, fashionability and understanding our customers and the way the nation thinks."
Nick Stickland, executive creative director at Odd, said a key consideration in developing the campaign was striking the right balance between narrative and style.
"Fashion can so often be incredibly sterile and austere, very difficult to love," he said. "The industry is often criticised for not having enough narrative. The most important thing is usually to show a beautiful piece of apparel. It embraces products, beautification – product porn as opposed to brand marketing. That careful balance of style and aspiration plus narrative is what led us to this solution and director Jake Nava."
Stickland noted that the upbeat vibe of the film went against the trend of sentimental Christmas ads favoured in recent years by brands such as John Lewis & Partners, Sainsbury’s and, in some cases, M&S itself: "We weren’t interested in making the nation cry; more interested in making them jump with joy."