Marks & Spencer has awarded its creative account to Grey London, ending a 16-year relationship with RKCR/Y&R.
The move charges Grey with turning around struggling clothing sales at the iconic British retailer, which spent $79 million on advertising last year. While M&S is still U.K's biggest clothing retailer, sales for its clothing and homewares division fell by 2.9% in the last financial year. CEO Steve Rowe announced earlier this year that it was reviewing its clothing offering.
Grey beat the incumbents, CHI/The & Partnership and VCCP, for the integrated account, comprising both advertising and digital, following a 10-week pitch process. The move appears to be a vote of confidence for the agency's new management, who took over in June following the surprise exit of chairman and chief creative officer Nils Leonard; CEO Lucy Jameson; and managing director Natalie Graeme to form their own startup.
Grey CEO Leo Rayman led the 10-week pitch together with executive creative director Vicki Maguire; chief strategy officer Matt Tanter; and Managing Partner Barbara Waite. Mr. Rayman said in a statement that "This is a defining moment in the Grey London story. We've been after a marquee retailer for a number of years, and they don't come more famed, more loved and bursting with opportunity than M&S. We've championed integration across our clients for a long time, but in many ways this win is the zenith of it. To bring advertising and digital together under one roof for one of the biggest retailers in the country sets a new benchmark, not just for us but for the industry."
He added: "That they've fully bought into the new team here, and more importantly what we're trying to achieve, is a real show of faith. We couldn't be happier."
The move ends nearly two decades of advertising from RKCR/Y&R. When the agency took over the account in 2000, Marks & Spencer swiftly became a major retail advertiser, and RKCR/Y&R's food ads were particularly well-received. Its "Not Just Any" spots, featuring husky-voiced actress Dervla Kirwan describing items such as Christmas pudding, three bean salad and gravadlax as if she were coaxing the viewer into bed, were dubbed "food porn," and were widely parodied but led to soaring sales of M&S food products. More recently the agency updated its food ads with the "Adventures in Imagination" campaign, which saw foods being chopped, mashed and twirled to a dance-music soundtrack.
But clothing has been another story as M&S struggles to keep up with younger competitors such as Zara and Uniqlo. Despite big and glossy Christmas campaigns starring the likes of Rosie Huntingon-Whiteley and David Gandy, the retailer has failed recapture the reputation clothing it held up until the 1980s as the go-to retailer for basic items.