Marks & Spencer's new ad: Leading Ladies, lagging retailer

Can Marks & Spencer's new 'Leading Ladies' - including Alek Wek, Annie Lennox and Emma Thompson - help the chain win back its retail crown?

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 07 Jul 2014

Last season’s line-up included artist Tracey Emin, singer Ellie Goulding and actress Helen Mirren.

This time round, M&S’s Leading Ladies ad campaign – released today – has gone grittier, featuring the likes of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, the campaigner and mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, and Roma Agrawal, one of the few female structural engineers behind the Shard. (Note: Agrawal appeared in MT’s 35 Women Under 35 list last year. We’re not the I-told-you-so types but, well, we knew she’d be big.)

Supermodel Alek Wek, singer Annie Lennox and actress Emma Thompson also feature in the new ads.



The campaign, which officially launches on 31 March, will feature four shots of the group in quintessentially British settings, including Camber Sands and the Cotswolds.

Photographed once again by Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz, this campaign will have set M&S boss Marc Bolland back a few bob. He's clearly hoping that the new ads will help reinstate the retail chain into the hearts – and wardrobes – of the nation's women.

Will it work? Probably not.

M&S has slowly been losing its grip on the womenswear market. Its attempt to appeal to 'women of all ages and strands of life’ – the trendy Rita Ora-types and the mumsy Emma Thompsons – is only dilluting the brand further.

The photos are nice, M&S, but instead of trying to be everything to everyone, focus on what you're good at: undies and food.

Here's Roma Agrawal [second left] featuring in our 35 Women Under 35 photoshoot last summer.

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