Ann Summers & Marks & Spencers

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When Ann Summers parodied Marks and Spencer’s well known successful meal deal campaign Marks and Spenser threatened to sue

M&S’s Meal Deal offered a main meal, a side dish and desert for £10. In Ann Summer’s campaign they offer a ‘Squeal deal’, which includes lingerie as the ‘Main’, a sex toy as a ‘side’ and body cream as a ‘side’ for £29.

As a play on the famous Marks and Spencer slogan, the promotion stated ‘its not just sex its Ann Summers sex’. On top of this they copied the black and lime colours of the M&S logo, and switched the lettering around so that it now read S&M.

The chief executive of Ann Summers, Jacqueline Gold, explained that the campaign was intended to be a ‘respectful nod’ to M&S’s ‘iconic meal deal’ She said ‘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 Marc Bollan (M&S boss) agrees.’ She claims that all Ann Summers wanted to do was add humour to the well-known campaign.

However, M&S did not see the campaign this way and  stated that they were considering legal action. A spokesman for M&S 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.’  Jacqueline Gold has now admitted ‘Maybe in hindsight it was a squeal too far… By the time this goes to print I hope to have spoken personally to Marc Bollan and shared this with him’.

The Ann Summers promotion, which was due to run until May 2nd, has now been withdrawn and traces of the campaign have been removed from both their website and all stores.

M&S’s concern about the Ann Summer’s campaign was that it might damage their reputation as a family supermarket and clothing store. Ann Summers has now apologised and hopes they have not caused any injury to the companies’ reputation. As Rosie Baker points out in an article in the Marketing Week, ‘That is the power of a strong brand’.

Despite withdrawal of the campaign, Ann Summers got plenty of coverage.  It would be interesting to know if it boosted their sales.