With the news last week that Marks & Spencer has revived its ‘this is not just food’ tagline, Retail Week looks at some of the most iconic retail adverts of all time.
A snappy tagline or memorable jingle is an effective means of putting a retailer firmly in the forefront of their customers’ minds.
Some adverts, however, not only drive sales and awareness but go on to transcend the medium to become genuine cultural touchpoints in their own right.
Last week, Marks & Spencer revived its famous ‘this is not just food, this is M&S food’ tagline. The new iteration on the classic advert, which launched across television and social media last week, features customers daydreaming about and serving M&S meals and keeps a focus on the “food porn moments” that made the original adverts cult favourites.
To celebrate the return of the retail marketing masterstroke, we take a look at some other sector adverts which have gone on to become part of the wider cultural firmament over the years.
Named as one of the most memorable supermarket adverts of all time by Adwatch, Asda’s iconic ‘pocket tap’ price adverts ran for over 30 years and, since launching in 1977, have included the likes of Julie Walters, Hatti Jacques and Michael Owen.
The advert and jingle were ditched by the supermarket in 2006 and, other than a brief reappearance in 2009, remained a thing of the past. However, Asda decided to bring the adverts back in 2015, as the supermarket settled into its partnership with American parent Wal-Mart.
At the time, Asda’s chief customer officer Barry Williams said the adverts were part of showcasing “the fun and customer focus which makes Asda special”.
Boots’ Here Come the Girls
First launched in 2007, Boots’ Here Come the Girls advert helped the retailer have its most successful Christmas trading period ever. The advert also helped put the titular song, originally recorded by Ernie K-Doe in 1970, back into the UK charts that year.
The advert would go on to be seen by members of the Sugababes, who recorded a cover of the song that went on to chart above the original at a staggering number three in 2008.
The ‘Here Come the Girls’ marketing tagline would go on to be used by Boots across a further 14 commercial TV and online advertisement campaigns, before the retailer finally retired the concept in 2012.
Boots marketing campaigns now focus on more “inspirational” content, but since the four years that it ran the Here Come the Girls campaign has gone on to become something of an icon for the retailer.
Toys R Us’ Magical Place
Children (if not so much parents) around the world were left distraught when international toy emporium Toys R Us tumbled into administration in the UK in February 2018.
The onetime toy-slinging bricks-and-mortar colossus was one of the more high-profile victims of the difficult trading conditions that so many high street retailers are now finding.
However, in happier times, Toys R Us was the go-to name for toys, and its jingle “It’s a magical place… we’re on our way there…” was ubiquitous on television, as was the retailer’s famous mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe.
This particular iteration of the Magical Place advert dates from 1989, and the theme tune was used in one way or another in every advert right up until the retailer collapsed last year.
Toys R Us may not have been able to out-survive the rise of Amazon, but the memory of its adverts will live on.
Specsavers’ Should’ve gone to…
One of the best-known taglines in retail marketing at the moment, Specsavers’ ‘Should’ve gone to’ campaigns have gone on to become a part of popular culture.
Having spent some £500m on advertising over the past 30 years, Specsavers’ marketing strategy has been based on a commitment to humour and a number of its ‘Should’ve gone to’ ads have gone on to win industry awards and helped drive profits of more than £1.1bn.
The first iteration of the advert actually started on Specsavers’ Twitter account in the wake of Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in 2014.
The meme, showing a picture of Chiellini with a red cross next to a picture of some cannelloni with a green tick, apparently only took Specsavers’ creative team 16 hours to create, and went on to go viral on social media.
The advert was such a hit with shoppers that in 2016, Specsavers successfully trademarked the word ‘should’ve’ to protect its well-known catchphrase.
As the campaign enters its fifth year, the ‘Should’ve gone to’ adverts show no signs of stopping.
That’s why mums go to Iceland
Supermarket chain Iceland is another retailer which has had a long history of engaging and amusing marketing campaigns. However, long before its never-broadcast ‘Rang-tan’ palm oil advert, or even Peter Andre’s beaming face, there was Kerry Katona.
The former Atomic Kitten singer appeared in a string of adverts for the grocer over four years, until Katona was unceremoniously dropped by the retailer following an exposé in the News of the World.
However, despite the unsavoury end to the relationship, Katona and Iceland did deliver some absolute gems, not least this all-singing, all-dancing Yuletide spot from 2008.
Katona stopped being the face of Iceland in 2009, and while the ‘That’s why’ tagline remains, Iceland made the decision to abandon celebrity appearances in its advertising in 2016 to focus more on real customers.
Ikea’s Kitchen Party
Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea has long been masterful at marketing its products. It has published its annual catalogue since 1951, which remains Ikea’s main marketing tool – but its TV adverts have also become legendary.
Arguably none have proved more successful than its Kitchen Party advert, first aired in 2010, which went on to win a number of awards and bought Jona Lewie’s 1980 song You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties back into the UK charts.
The advert was particularly innovative for the time as, when it ran on the retailer’s YouTube channel, viewers were able to roll over items featured in the video and purchase them from Ikea’s kitchens site.
M&S’ original ‘This is not just…’
The original and, in many ways, still the best. The first iteration of the M&S adverts, which ran in the early to mid-2000s, set the bar very high when it came to the notion of ‘food porn’.
The campaign was first launched in 2004, by then-marketing boss Steve Sharp as he and former M&S chief executive Stuart Rose launched a turnaround campaign after fending off bid interest from Sir Philip Green.
The ‘not just food’ campaign quickly achieved cult status and boosted sales of the retailer’s Melting Middle Chocolate Pudding by 3,500%.
The tagline disappeared in 2007 but has now been brought back by M&S boss Steve Rowe in his bid to revive the business. Rowe has been very open about his plans to put M&S’ food offering at the heart of these turnaround plans and the retailer has been reconfiguring stores to devote more space to food.