Business World

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Why M&S has got its knickers in a twist with Ann Summers

The Ann Summers campaign, left; a window display in one of the chain's stores, right
The Ann Summers campaign, left; a window display in one of the chain's stores, right

James Thompson

Marks & Spencer has forced Ann Summers to pull its saucy "Your S&M" promotion from its shop windows and website after claiming it parodied M&S's marketing.

The high street retailer got its knickers in a twist and threatened legal action after Ann Summers lifted the veil on its "S&M Squeal Deal" campaign, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the M&S's meal deal offers.

But alongside window displays that would make some teenagers blush, the promotion offered a "mix and match" array of saucy material for £29.

The Squeal Deal served up "any main" of erotic bedroom lingerie, "any side" of "discreet bullet sex toy" and, of course, "any dessert" such as a range of "flavoured and lickable lubrication".

But M&S, which is led by Marc Bolland, the Dutch chief executive, decided not to turn the other cheek. A spokeswoman for the retailer said: "Over the last 127 years, Marks & Spencer has built up a great reputation for quality and trust in the hearts and minds of the British public.

"When we believe these values are being infringed we do whatever we can to protect our brand and our customers. We therefore are taking legal advice with a view to issuing legal proceedings."

Ann Summers promptly removed the promotion from its window displays and website. Jacqueline Gold, the company's chief executive, said: "I have nothing but respect for Marks & Spencer. We wanted to take one of the most iconic campaigns and add a humorous Ann Summers twist.

"Maybe in hindsight it was a squeal too far... By the time this goes to print I hope to have spoken personally to Marc Bolland and shared this with him."

However, her conciliatory tone was a marked contrast to her previous comments on the matter: "You hear the adverts, you see them and we all know who it is; what we wanted to do was add a naughty twist. We all know imitation is the greatest form of flattery and I hope that M&S boss Marc Bolland agrees," she said.

But Mr Bolland didn't see the funny side of the rival campaign which was scheduled to run until 2 May. But for Ann Summers, which has 148 stores in the UK, Ireland and Spain, the old adage of there being no such thing as bad publicity is likely to ring true ahead of what the company has tastefully billed the weekend's "bonk holiday".

Independent News Service

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