[london] The compelling story of Marks & Spencer's turnaround was the clear Grand Prix winner at last week's IPA Effectiveness Awards.
The U.K. retailer's share price has almost doubled since 2004, and M&S reported fourth-quarter sales growth of 6.8% amid a retail-sales downturn in spring 2006. The success marks a reversal of fortune for the traditional British retailer after years of declining sales and reams of negative press. The company's secret? Putting product quality at the heart of its marketing campaign-a tactic that also paid dividends for other big IPA winners.
"It's old-fashioned retail ads done brilliantly," said Laurence Green, the convenor of judges for the awards show (see column opposite). "The agency just got out of the way and showed us what's in the shops-the creative idea is the chocolate pudding." The ad-sumptuous, lingering shots of the product with the tagline "It's not just food, it's M&S food"-grew sales of the dessert 3,300%.
M&S fashion advertising is equally simple and uses traditional broadcast and print media. The ads feature well-known models, such as 1960s icon Twiggy and Mick Jagger's daughter Lizzie, showing off the company's clothing lines. The campaign, by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R, reclaimed the high ground for the tired retailer and made an emphatic statement about M&S's renewed confidence in the product.
Neil Dawson, founder of new agency Dawson Hurrell and until recently chairman of TBWA London, was deputy convenor of judges for the IPA awards. He said: "There was a real confidence in the organizations that delivered the golds."
Mobile-telecoms company O2 won gold with, like M&S, a very simple strategy. "If you've got a great product or service, design a frame for it rather than write a creative idea on top of it," Mr. Green said.
O2's campaign, by Chime Communication's Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, sought to retain customers who felt ignored and were thinking about switching to another telecom provider. The campaign,"O2: A world that revolves around you," announced simple, high-value rewards for staying with the O2 brand.
Danone's Actimel probiotic drink won a silver award for an even simpler yet still very effective campaign: an "Actimel Challenge" that promised a full refund to any customer who didn't feel the benefits of Actimel after two weeks. Sales by volume rose 359% and repeat purchases doubled during the two-year campaign.
DDB London won two awards, a gold and a special gong for best use of digital, for Volkswagen Golf. The first paper (to be eligible for an effectiveness award, a company must submit a written explanation of its campaign and the results) demonstrated that since the Golf's launch in 1974, the car's U.K. performance has surpassed other markets, and the carmaker proved that communications have added $638 million in profit to Volkswagen.
DDB and VW picked up the digital prize for their idea to let people build and order their dream Golf GTI MK5 on a website. Thanks to the popular web destination, VW reached its goal of preselling 3,100 Golf GTIs. DDB estimates the campaign generated about $38 million in sales-enough to pay for the ad effort eight times over.