9 May, 2011 - 06:52 By Kate Sweeney

M&S say knickers to Ann Summers

“Something for the weekend, sir?”, an offer once made by Gentlemen’s Hairdressers to their more mature customers – followed by a furtive and embarrassed bit of business – is something you thankfully never hear nowadays.

Hardly surprising in an age when Ann Summers can market an ‘S&M Squeal Deal’ package (see marketing press for details!) for a Bank Holiday weekend, and nobody bats an eyelid.Nobody, that is, except Marks & Spencer, who didn’t take kindly to the fact that the package masqueraded as an ‘M&S Meal Deal’ – right down to its distinctive corporate colours and typography – and threatened Ann Summers with legal action for their effrontery, forcing them to delete all reference to the campaign from their website.Did they overreact?  For a company that once had its AGM interrupted by a disgruntled shareholder complaining of their ‘unsexy knickers’, you might think they’d welcome the added spice of having their name linked with Ann Summers.  Or at least take it in good part as a bit of harmless fun.  Possibly it was ‘It’s not just sex, it’s Ann Summers sex’ that pushed them over the edge!No, they obviously have a very valid point.  After all, if you let this pass, what will you say when every other retail promotion is hijacked by sex toy merchants or other elements of the sub culture.  Imagine, for example, what they could make of ‘the real thing’, ‘just do it’ or ‘every little helps!” (in fact the protestors in the recent Bristol Tesco riots daubed the place with the slogan “every fiddle helps”).But to stick with the case in point, there’s something contagious and ineradicable about innuendo.  Having heard the rugby song version of ‘These Foolish Things’, I can never hear it without the alternative lyrics springing unbidden to mind.  M&S no doubt feel the same about having their brand values subverted.However, Ann Summers have had the last laugh in terms of ‘bangs for their bucks’ (sorry!).  More column inches in the business and marketing press, as well as the tabloids, has made this a very cost effective marketing campaign indeed; with (as I understand it) no offline promotional spend other than PR - which I suspect was always their intention, don’t you?



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