M&S gets its knickers in a twist over Ann Summers 'Your S&M' ad

We were rather amused by the lingerie chain's saucy twist on the famous ad strapline. But M&S apparently didn't share in that...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
It might have been one of the most elaborate uses of a pun in recent marketing history, but it wasn't to be: at first glance, you might have thought Marks & Spencer had entered into some sort of misguided tie-up in an attempt to jazz up its image. But no; it turned out that Ann Summers was merely trying to pay homage to the high street stalwart with its latest adverts, which boasted the fabulous strapline: Your S&M. Unfortunately, it was, as Ann Summers CEO Jaqueline Gold put it, a 'squeal too far' for M&S. 

The campaign, which was due to be unveiled today, would have allowed customers of the lingerie (and, ahem, accoutrements) retailer to mix and match a ‘main course’ of underwear, a ‘side’ of a sex toy, plus dessert – strawberry or cherry-flavoured lubricant, natch – all for the bargain price of £29. And the name of said promotion? Why, the ‘S&M Squeal Deal’, of course.

Yesterday, Ann Summers CEO Jacqueline Gold gleefully described the campaign as a ‘respectful nod’ to M&S’ ‘iconic’ £10 meal deal. ‘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 CEO] Marc Bolland agrees.’

Perhaps inevitably, he didn't. A (decidedly humourless) spokesperson was quick to go on record to point out that M&S has ‘built up a great reputation for quality and trust in the hearts and minds of the British public’ and will ‘do whatever we can to protect our brand and our customers’ – which meant it is ‘taking legal advice with a view to issuing legal proceedings’. After that po-faced reaction, Ann Summers decided to pull the campaign

Oh dear. Personally, we can’t help feeling M&S should have adopted the opposite approach – i.e. not only embracing it wholeheartedly, but also demanding a piece of the action (as it were). It might have  caught the eye of a whole new demographic – or alternatively, it might have given Twiggy’s career a whole new lease of life.

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