Spend It Well

Another supermarket brand awareness campaign, yay! Apart from the froth around Christmas for the new John Lewis ad, it is generally hard for me to get excited about department store/supermarket ads.

In May M&S, working with agency Valenstein & Fatt, launched the first element of the ‘Spend it Well campaign (http://grey.com/london/work/key/m-s/id/13992/). Hailed on it’s launch as being a ‘radical departure’ the campaign has now had a bit of time to mature before the banking and holiday elements kick in.

Most supermarket marketing and advertising is functional. After all, when you want to know where to buy your groceries, do you really care about much more than how much does stuff cost there, and do they sell the stuff I want?

Cue a bunch of images showing beautifully set out food, slo mo shots of food being cut, people expressing what a bargain their weekly shop has been and the occasional ‘our food is sustainably sourced, fair trade and morally superior’ message.

For me one of the most interesting elements of this campaign is that, during the opening offer, I didn’t notice any products being conveniently placed. In fact the first time I saw the first advert I didn’t even cotton on it was a M&S ad until the end, I was too busy just enjoying it (a very rare occurrence). The campaign is about you. They ask you the question ‘how will you spend your life well?’ and then use user generated content.

Although the John Lewis ads have a frustratingly high ability to tug on one’s heartstrings at Christmas, they are very much about Christmas and so the message is more constrained by the temporal limitation of ‘be nice to each other at Christmas’. This campaign is more of ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’ and it’s almost as if they decided to out ‘Apple’ Apple. Utopian visions are abound.

What I really like about this campaign is that it is a call to action, a challenge, to spend our lives (as well as our money) well. It speaks to the human spirit and asks a question that harks back to antiquity – life is short, how will you spend it? Unfortunately (as illustrated by the graph below) the campaign was released as M&S announced a fall in profits by 64% and a reflective nose dive in share prices. Only time will be able to tell if the Spend It Well campaign will be able to help change the fortunes of M&S.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 16.47.09 1


A TV/cinema ad that is not about products and more about a philosophy.


The food ad is about the product, and yet at the same time doesn’t feel like it is (it made me feel both inspired and  super hungry)


Sam Copland, Lecturer in Creative and Digital Marketing

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