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03/05/2007 - par Mark Tungate

When I was in London last week I met the chairman of a big British advertising agency. I'd rather not reveal his name, because our chat was not an official one, but he did make a point that I wanted to share with you. We were talking about Web 2.0 and that old cliché, the death of the 30 second TV spot.

At this point, the gentleman concerned leaned forwards and said : « Do you know who should get a medal for services to advertising ? Marks&Spencer ! » And then he explained why. A few years ago, the famous British retailer was suffering badly. Its sales were plummeting. Its customers were deserting it for more glamorous rivals. It had cut jobs and closed stores - including one in Paris. Then Marks&Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose took action. He revamped the stores and hired teams of young designers. Crucially, he increased the marketing budget.

The new ads, from the Rainey Kelley Campbell Rolfe/Y&R, took the clear and simple strategy of targeting well-dressed older women. The agency hired sixties supermodel Twiggy - the equivalent, in her day, of Kate Moss. It launched the slogan, « Your M&S ». Now sales are up again, and so are profits. More than 18 million additional people visited M&S stores last year. The Twiggy comeback generated press coverage worth 8 million euros in advertising space.

« And all this was done with traditional TV and print advertising, » points out my friend - who is not from the agency concerned. « So it's not dead yet ! »

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