Full Marks For M&S Back-To-School Ad


Best In Class


Most back-to-school ads don’t trouble Ad Of The Week. Watch a few and you’ll see why. They’re typically highly transactional pieces of direct response marketing, full of information and offers at the expense of feeling and visual interest. That’s fine, you might say. These ads have a job to do and they do it. But here, M&S show their competitors how to do it better.

This is a back-to-school ad with flair. It’s not that the content is very different from what you’d expect. M&S have several tempting offers, products designed to make parents’ lives simpler, and end with the firm promise that prices have remained frozen since 2021. In an era of high inflation, that’s exactly the message stressed parents want to hear.

So the ad scores well on the bread-and-butter short-term sales metrics of Spike (an Exceptional score) and Brand Fluency (94% know who it’s for in the first few seconds). Just as a direct response ad, this is extremely good.

But it also scores very well on the long-term, brand-building Star Rating, landing a 4.2-Star score, which means the ad has a strong potential to grow the brand’s market share (depending on the level of investment it’s given). For a message-heavy ad, that’s an unusual result. It’s well above the Fashion average on Test Your Ad. And while we don’t have a separate back-to-school category, there’s only one higher scoring school-themed ad in the category.

What do M&S do right here? Two things help this ad stand out. The first is using kids’ own voices. In most back-to-school ads, kids are seen but not heard – they rush around or pose for the camera, but the soundtrack is music or an adult voiceover. Here, the kids are the ones selling the clothes to the audience – it brings variety to the voiceover and makes the claims feel more real.

The second standout is the ad’s delightful direction and execution. From the superheroine girl on her bike in the ad’s first second, M&S deliver a colourful, quirky vibe that celebrates the mess and joyfulness of playground life. School is about learning and growing but it’s also about play and creativity, and M&S go beyond the clothes and into the fun kids are going to have while wearing them. Like the voices, it makes the ad feel more human – a back-to-school ad that’s on the kids’ side.

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