M&S and John Lewis square up

Quality brands go head to head with Christmas ad campaigns, with both predicted to be pretty merry.

John Lewis: the right gifts for the right people
John Lewis: the right gifts for the right people

Marks & Spencer has had a torrid time in 2008. The firm's financial results for the six months to 27 September, released on 4 November, revealed that operating profit was down 23.7% year on year.

The dire financial results prompted M&S chairman Sir Stuart Rose to note that he is "cautious" about the outlook for the rest of the year.

However, M&S is not alone. John Lewis has also experienced turbulent trading conditions, with its results for the six months to 26 July showing operating profits drop 21.5% year on year, down £34.4m.

Despite the challenging outlook, both high-street retailers have produced high-budget ad campaigns for this year's festive period.

M&S, which launched its Christmas ads on 13 November, has stuck with its tried and tested formula of rustling up as many celebrity endorsements as possible.

The "Home Movie" campaign, planned by Walker Media, shows M&S models Myleene Klass, Twiggy, Erin O'Connor, Noemie Lenoir and Lily Cole inviting Take That to a Christmas party, where they unwrap M&S-bought gifts. By contrast, the campaign for John Lewis, planned and bought by Manning Gottlieb OMD, focuses on the theme of buying the right gifts for the right people, accompanied by the soundtrack of From Me To You by the Beatles.

Although M&S has seen an impressive uplift in its ratings this year - up 15 points since the ad first aired - the period includes the brand's recovery from its profit announcement. Furthermore, the brand's buzz score is 10 points lower than it was a year ago.

By comparison, John Lewis has seen an uplift of five points since the launch of its campaign on 11 November, with buzz scores for the brand equal to last year's.

However, if M&S's scores continue to improve as the graph suggests, it won't be long before the brand sees its scores returning to a similar position to this time last year. For now at least, it appears both retailers will experience a merry Christmas after all.

METHODOLOGY: YouGov interviews 2,000 people each weekday to form its BrandIndex, a daily measure of public perception of more than 1,100 consumer brands across 32 sectors. It is measured on a seven-point profile:
1 Buzz
2 General impression
3 Quality
4 Value
5 Satisfaction 
6 Recommend
7 Corporate reputation.
In addition, we supply an index score.

Richard Wood, www.brandindex.co.uk

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