M&S celebrates Britain’s ‘leading ladies’ in new campaign

Marks & Spencer has enlisted a cast of ‘leading ladies’, from Helen Mirren to artist Tracey Emin and Olympic Gold winning boxer Nicola Adams, and photographed by Annie Leibovitz, to launch its autumn fashion ranges.

Marks & Spencer has enlisted a cast of ‘leading ladies’, from Helen Mirren to artist Tracey Emin and Olympic Gold winning boxer Nicola Adams, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, to launch its autumn fashion ranges.

The noticeably high-production value campaign, created by agency RKCR Y&R and shot in Leibovitz’s trademark style, aims to convey the retailer’s “new and confident tone of voice”. It features the leading ladies posing in different groups at various dramatic locations, including on a boat at Tower Bridge, at a London artist’s studio (which apparently sets the scene for the “rebellious yet playful London Calling trend”) and the drawing room of a traditional country house.

Under the strapline ‘Meet Britain’s leading ladies’, the campaign celebrates 12 British women from diverse backgrounds and professions. It launches on September 3 in print, online and outdoors across the UK. Shots from the campaign will also feature in ten international flagship stores.

The group of women also includes retired ballerina Darcey Bussell, Nurse of the Year 2011 Helen Allen, author Monica Ali, supermodel Karen Elson, charity campaigner Katie Piper, singer Ellie Goulding, US Vogue creative director Grace Coddington and Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children International. According to M&S, they share “a strong sense of personal style and inspirational achievements which have propelled them to success”.

“The British have a history of being creative and pioneering and these women represent just that, says Steve Sharp, creative director at M&S. “As industry leaders in their field, [the leading ladies] make a significant difference that has seen them break boundaries, challenge stereotypes and create visionary artistic work. As the nation’s biggest retailer, we too have broken boundaries throughout our history and it’s this unique position in the marketplace that has enabled us to bring together this remarkable group of people.”

Despite this rationale, it remains unclear exactly what consumer demographic is being targeted with this group of people. In fact, the various posed tableaux seem a tad forced and contrived – perhaps not quite conveying the feeling of a Vanity Fair-esque aspirational spread.

When M&S ditched its previous group of female celebrity models in favour of conventional jobbing models last year, there were calls for Twiggy and co to return – maybe Dame Helen and her fellow leading ladies can revive M&S’s fashion fortunes instead.

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  • LL

    Beautiful campaign! Don’t forget the video that goes with it too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGTQFge2yiw

  • Christ, i can just imagine all the M&S customers/Daily Mail readers gladly welcoming Tracy Emin to their collective bosom …

  • Mac Hack

    Britain’s Leading Ladies – Great idea!
    But why have the campaign shot by Annie Leibovitz (American).

    It’s a shame M&S couldn’t hire fresh, new, British photographic talent ..?
    Instead they play it safe & ship Leibovitz in, to do a poor job !!

  • That is such a great idea, love the leading ladies!

  • John D

    I think it looks slightly contrived, to the point of looking awkward. Also, what’s the story with the composition of the last shot? They’re practically sitting on each others knees.
    The whole thing is like a clothed Dove campaign.

  • Ed Wright

    Could they not afford enough chairs?

  • Like the overcast backdrop of The City behind the group and the composition of the ladies, but the other group shots seem very weak and lack Leibovitz’s unique vision.

  • The composition isn’t great in any of them, but the last shot looks like an awkward ‘family’ photo or a really bad photoshop job!!!

  • Helen Mirren looks classy and elegant as usual, and the rest of the ladies are just lovely. Kudos to M&S for launching a campaign that empowers women, not only in Britain, but the rest of the world as well. Great post!

  • roberta

    It all look very fake done in a studio and then photo shop the background is not inspirational .Do not look good

  • sue bashall

    The video advert using british actors transporting us back to fairytale stories is pure genius!!!!!

  • Really enjoyed this set! Great work, great campaign : )

  • Wonderful Work!

  • Wendy marling

    Forced and ridiculous photoshoot – wonder how much it cost? Why don’t they photograph their own staff in the clothes instead – would save a fortune

  • This campaign is embarassing . As was the last.
    Please M&S, move on from this contrived nonsense
    & plough the wads of cash given to photographers
    & ‘leading ladies’ alike into something worthwhile
    ie, decent , plentiful stock, it didn ‘t work the last
    time & nor will it this time.. Yawn is the nicest
    term I can think of.. this stuff is so un-
    necessary & OTT expensive …..cmon!