M&S brings back ‘This is not just food’ campaign after a 12-year absence

The retailer is bringing back its much-loved (and oft mimicked) ad campaign, keeping its trademark “food porn” moments but adding in some personality as it looks to shift perceptions of its food.

Marks & Spencer is bringing back its much loved (and oft mimicked) ‘This is not just food’ strapline after a 12-year absence as it looks to reset perceptions of its food brand and go after a less premium, more family-orientated audience.

Unveiled at an event in London this evening (2 April), the campaign, created by Grey London, keeps the “food porn” moments that captured the public’s imagination the last time the ads ran. There is also a similar voiceover style, while food director Charlie Stebbings and his slow-motion style are back, as is the Fleetwood Mac song Albatross as background music.

But the TV spots have a noticeably different feel. Rather than focusing solely on the food, they show customers daydreaming about their favourite M&S food, from trifle to salmon.

“We are bringing back [This is not just food, this is M&S food] to the nation’s screens after a 12-year absence…but we’ve given it a makeover, keeping our trademark ‘food porn’ moments and adding a new twist to surprise and delight customers,” says M&S in a release handed out at the event.

“With an injection of fun and humour, M&S will be stepping into the lives of customers in the key moment they’re daydreaming about delicious M&S food. From Scottish smoked salmon to brand new trifle, this 60-second ad promises to provide great value mealtime inspiration for the nation’s families.”

The ads will launch on social media tomorrow morning ahead of a TV debut later on ITV at 10.15am during This Morning. The initial spot aims to reintroduce the strapline, while shorter spots set to run around Easter will hero individual products such as hot cross buns.

The campaign will continue into summer and beyond and will also feature on radio, print and new-look in-store marketing. There will be weekly offers in-store, while social content and activities online and in stores will aim to engage customers.

M&S’s recently announced sponsorship of Britain’s Got Talent is also part of plans to get consumers to re-evaluate the M&S food offer. They aim to add more personality to M&S food by focusing on products such as ice cream and houmous, bringing them to life and showing how food from the retailer can be part of family mealtimes, rather than just bought as a treat.

M&S is keen to shake off perceptions that its food is expensive, limited in range and only for special occasions or treats. According to YouGov BrandIndex, while M&S is in the top three for public perceptions on metrics such as quality, reputation and satisfaction, it falls behind the competition when it comes to value, coming 24th out of a list of 27 grocers, something the company is looking to change.

Sales at M&S food were down 2.1% on a like-for-like basis for the 13 weeks to 29 December. CEO Steve Rowe has said changing those perceptions is a key strand of its strategy to turn around performance. That will also be key if its recently announced tie-up with Ocado for online food delivery is to deliver for the company.

To do that, M&S has now split its ad business, keeping Grey on its food account but last week appointing ODD to its clothing and home creative. Key for food is to challenge those value perceptions, while clothing is focused on renewing its style credentials.

The This is not just food campaign originally launched in 2004 and was a huge success first time around, helping to boost sales of products featured in the spots. For example, its melting middle chocolate pudding saw sales soar 3,500% after it was featured.

M&S will be hoping it sees similar success this time round.

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