Peter York on Ads: Linguini that has happy Middle England taped

Marks & Spencer
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The Independent Online

The line between the Luckies and the rest in Modern Britain is drawn at the Marks & Spencer food store's door. While M&S as a whole struggles for a market, an identity, a format anything ... the food operation has known what it's doing forever.

The line between the Luckies and the rest in Modern Britain is drawn at the Marks & Spencer food store's door. While M&S as a whole struggles for a market, an identity, a format anything ... the food operation has known what it's doing forever.

It's for the Luckies. The better-off, more confident, more aspirant slice of every class, in every region. It's not for hard-pressed, make-do big academic families in North Oxford who make something nasty from real things bought in Budgens. It's not for people on transfer incomes in Northern ghost towns. But for all those selfish singles, those Dinkies, those "because-I'm-worth-it" girls in PR it's the answer. Even as a family, if you feel halfway Lucky, you'll do the main shop at Tesco and top up on the treats at M&S.

They've got real people talking about it in their commercials now - ordinary people saying there's something that bit special about M&S, classier, tastier, more of a treat. One man says it's like having your mum come round and leave stuff in the fridge (another asks whether she did the washing up). An Essex-ish woman rhapsodises about linguini - "gorgeous linguini". Another woman talks about things being "juicy and succulent", making little involuntary mouthings. Another talks about the smoked salmon - "smoaked salmon" with rather genteel wayward vowels and gets ribbed by her friend. They talk about abundance, about Italian banquets, piles of everything. There's Geordie and Essex and Midlands, but no one poor and no one posh. It's all By-pass Variegated of one kind or another.

It isn't for deep foodies of course. Nothing will be nasty or obscure. No vile game birds, no meat hung so long it's high, no brains in black butter, no nose-to-tail eating, no undercooked fish, no tripe and lights. No ortolans with crunchy bones.

M&S don't do that stuff. They know it's just for people with perversity problems. They concentrate on consistent quality in recognised luxuries, and on microwave convenience foods that are worth eating. Practically everyone likes something from the M&S food store, and practically everyone thinks of it as at the top end of their buy - as everyday luxury.

"Love gets sweeter everyday" says the soft reggae music track. They've got happy Middle England taped with a positioning that delivers. The difference from the rest of M&S is that they're completely focused, they've accepted playing in a nice big niche. They know you can't have a universal provider mission in 2004, and they know which side their ciabatta's buttered.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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