M&S democratises food range with unscripted Christmas ad starring real people

This is the first of two festive campaigns since the retailer restructured its business.

M&S democratises food range with unscripted Christmas ad starring real people

Marks & Spencer’s biggest-ever Christmas food campaign uses real people’s opinions in its first unscripted ad.

This year, M&S has two separate Christmas campaigns, one for food and one for its clothing and home divisions, following a marketing restructure that split operations for the two businesses. The food campaign launches first, while the other will be unveiled later this week.

In "M&S Christmas favourites", created by Grey London, the retailer incorporates customers and colleagues alongside shots of the "food porn" for which it has become known. The agency cast people across the country to talk about their favourite festive food items from M&S and viewers can also share their picks on social media with the hashtag #MyMarksFave.

The campaign comprises 12 ads – three 60-second spots plus nine 30-second ones that focus on specific products – and all are timed to coincide with food shopping patterns, such as a fresh produce ad launching the week before Christmas.

The work was created by group creative director Sue Higgs and senior creatives Gregor Findlay and Kevin Colquhoun, while Mindshare handled media planning and buying. Charlie Stebbings, who directed the original M&S "food porn" ad in 2004 with chocolate oozing out of a pudding, directed the food part of the campaign through Rogue. Neil Gorringe directed the people portion through Moxie Pictures.

The campaign also has a big social media component. A festive Percy Pig emoji will appear every time someone uses the #MyMarksFave hashtag on Twitter, and gifs of the character will run on Instagram Stories. "What’s new at M&S", the brand’s Instagram TV series that launched in September, will feature two special Christmas episodes on 15 November and 14 December, featuring celebrity guest Keith Lemon.

This week, M&S reported falling clothing and food sales in its half-year results. The food division performed worse, with sales down 2.9% compared with a 1.1% drop in clothing and home. Chief executive Steve Rowe said the retailer is reshaping its business and lowering prices on hundreds of food items.

Former Tesco marketer Sharry Cramond joined M&S as marketing director, food and hospitality, earlier this year during the business restructure. She said her team is focused on communicating the value of M&S food to a new audience, including younger families.

"M&S food is for special occasions and we want to continue with that, but it’s also for lunchtime and dinner tonight. There’s a huge growth opportunity to talk about all the other times," Cramond said.

In another first, the food ads will feature price points at the end. M&S has lowered the prices of more than 100 Christmas food items, such as cranberry sauce that has gone from £1.50 last year to £1 this season.