March 31, 2023

Advertising: Calendar Says October; Retailers Say It’s Christmas

The idea that holiday marketing efforts would get under way in earnest before Thanksgiving was once startling. But in recent years, “Christmas creep” has become standard operating procedure, leading to jokes like Stephen Colbert’s last week on Twitter: “Halloween is right around the corner. You can tell because all the stores are decked out for Christmas.”

One company, which specializes in online coupons, is spoofing the phenomenon. RetailMeNot, a Web site operated by WhaleShark Media, is running a campaign saluting “OctoNovemCember,” which features a hybrid holiday character called Pumpkin-Headed Turkey Claus that has its own Twitter feed.

The uncertain economy has been a major reason that holiday ads are arriving early the last several years. Retailers sought to get cash registers ringing as soon as they could, regardless of tradition. As it turned out, many consumers welcomed a longer Christmas shopping season, seeing the sales prices as a way to help stretch their gift budgets.

So even as surveys suggest consumers are growing more confident about the economy, campaigns for this holiday season are still playing up bargains. For instance, Target, which seems to be the first big retailer to have started running Christmas commercials, is concluding them with this promise on-screen: “Dream big. Save bigger.” The spots, which began appearing three weeks ago, are by 72andSunny in Los Angeles, part of MDC Partners.

Toys “R” Us, which started its holiday campaign on Sunday, also is being aggressive on sales. The 2012 edition of its holiday catalog, called the Great Big Toys “R” Us Book, begins with two pages of coupons with discounts as high as $60 off certain Power Wheels toys.

“We’re very optimistic about the holiday,” said Peter Reiner, senior vice president for marketing at Toys “R” Us.

“We’re concentrating on what makes us special, letting consumers know there is a difference,” he added, “and if you want to make sure you get the right toy, there’s really only one place to go.”

That is underlined by the theme of the 2012 campaign: “Why shop anywhere else for toys? Why?”

In commercials by the Chicago agency the Escape Pod, children play the parts of television news reporters and anchors at a make-believe station with the call letters TRU, delivering pitches like “All the toys, all the time” in newscast style.

In one spot, which will run in social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the youngsters speak lines that sound familiar: They are from the lyrics to the longtime Toys “R” Us jingle.

“For kids, the new toys are the biggest news of the year,” said Vinny Warren, creative director at the Escape Pod, “so we present it as news.”

“The idea is to get on with the show and tell them what Toys ‘R’ Us has,” he added. “We’re delivering the offers in a way that’s direct and interruptive but, hopefully, charming.”

Wayfair, which sells products like furniture and home accessories online, said it would start its Christmas campaign on Thursday. A humorous television commercial, created internally, is focused on the variety of merchandise at, then concludes with the words “Holiday supersale starts now, up to 60 percent off.”

“Consumers care about selection and value,” said Niraj Shah, chief executive at Wayfair. “We think this will catch their attention and work for us.”

Although “it’s a little hard to say” if customer attitudes about the economy are improving, “we’ve been consistently growing,” he added. “It seems we’re on track for a really good holiday season.”

Not all Christmas campaigns will encourage bargain hunters. For example, an effort for Dell by YR New York is more high-minded, carrying the theme “Inspired gifting.”

In a television commercial, a love-struck boy named Billy uses Dell products to create a gift for an astronomy-minded girl named Charlotte. And in a print ad, a young photography fan named Maxine gets “the perfect gift,” a Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook with photo-editing software.

“Our customers want holiday shopping simplified, but they also want to give gifts that will be remembered and inspire loved ones,” said Fara Howard, executive director for North American consumer and small-office marketing at Dell.

An element of the “Inspired gifting” campaign that is to begin on Saturday, created by the Buzz Marketing Group in Philadelphia, is centered on the “#Inspire 100,” whom Dell describes as 100 “influencers” in fields like education, philanthropy and entrepreneurship. They include the actor Edward Norton; Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise; and the fashion designer Rachel Roy.

“It is all about creating a conversation with consumers, not just pushing a deal or discount,” said Tina Wells, chief executive at Buzz Marketing.

And the Sears division of Sears Holdings plans to start running a commercial on Thursday that is devoted to the depth of selection of home appliances at its stores rather than sale prices.

The humorous spot, by McGarryBowen, is styled like a movie trailer for a romantic comedy and promotes what the retailer calls “the top 10 advantage.” An announcer declares, “Only Sears carries them all,” referring to the 10 leading appliance brands.

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