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Marks and Spencer clothing up for pitch — will it follow Jackson to TBWA?

Grey London finally got a new management team in place, and now one of its flagship accounts, Marks and Spencer, is on the rocks.

In the last couple of months, the agency has poached Adrian Rossi from AMV BBDO to be creative chairman, and Anna Panczyk from Grey Poland as CEO.

However, the agency has just lost Katie Jackson, who ran the Marks and Spencer account, to TBWA where she will be managing director. Jackson, who was overall head of account leadership at Grey, also worked with Marks and Spencer when she was at RKCR/Y&R. TBWA recently lost the Lidl account to Karmarama, so is looking for a retail client.

Grey’s new leadership duo is left facing the loss of the Marks and Spencer clothing and home business, which is up for pitch. Grey has hung onto the food business – for now – but even its liberal use of Holly Willoughby and David Gandy has not been enough to keep Marks and Spencer clothing department happy.

The move comes in the wake of disappointing Christmas sales, which were down 2.4 per cent for clothing and home, and 2.1 per cent for food.

Marks and Spencer split up food from clothing and home nine months ago, and now runs two separate marketing departments. Last Christmas they ran different marketing campaigns for the first time, both heavily informed by data and research, in a failed attempt to turn around sales declines.

The previous year’s “Paddington” campaign was more of a creative success, but that didn’t do anything for sales either.

Nathan Ansell, Marks and Spencer clothing and home marketing director, has always been a keen proponent of digital and data, and his division has put a lot of resources into influencer marketing – they even let seven bloggers design shoes for them recently.

Despite Marks and Spencer’s ongoing problems, it’s still a brand that agencies will be fighting for. The likelihood is that, after 18 years with big WPP network agencies (first Y&R for 16 years, then Grey), they will be talking to smaller shops in search of a change.

Nils Leonard was part of the team that pitched for Marks and Spencer when he was creative chief at Grey, although he quit the agency just before it finally landed the account. The retailer is likely to have Leonard’s own shop, Uncommon, on its list, but will it want to push the data-led approach even further, or go back to some more inspiring brand advertising?

At Christmas, Ansell told MAA: “The battle of the ads doesn’t bother me. We didn’t want to advertise Christmas. Everyone knows what it is. We know what we need to do. Driving sales is more important. This is a more modern and dynamic integrated campaign, created by sitting all our agencies around a table. The best ideas often come from the place you least expect.”

A Marks and Spencer spokesperson said: “As we transform, our clothing and home and food businesses have been reshaped to create clear and accountable businesses. In line with this, we have put our Clothing and Home creative brief out to tender, as we continue to restore our style credentials and make Marks and Spencer more relevant, more often to more customers. We’re proud of the campaigns we have created with Grey and it remains the retained creative agency for our food business.”

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