Holiday Advertising? Big Lots Nailed It

Ad Effort Managed Not to Be Annoying Despite Heavy Rotation

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The holidays are all but over and a new year is upon us, but I'd be remiss in not declaring a Christmas winner. You may not be the type who thinks Christmas is a thing to be won (you probably also give tube socks to children for Christmas). But if you're reading Ad Age, you should at least admit that for marketers the season is definitely about winning.

There were a number of good efforts this year.

Apple's ad featuring a granddaughter making a multimedia presentation for her grandmother was great for those of us who like a good, sentimental cry during the holidays.

Honda's effort featuring 1980s toys was great for aging Gen Xers. The commercials were cute, the online videos were better and Skeletor's takeover of Honda's Twitter and Instagram accounts was great. A wide range of content for various media! (That had nothing to do with selling automobiles that I could see.)

Another crowd-pleaser -- or a me-pleaser, at any rate -- was Freshpet's "Holiday Feast," which featured one cat and 13 dogs eating with human hands. Not since hearing a canine chorus barking out "Jingle Bells" as a kid have I been so moved by dogs acting like people.

But if I had to direct Santa to one marketer this season, it would be Big Lots. The retailer sang and danced its way through the Christmas clutter with a cheeky effort targeted to moms.

Its holiday anthem was a musical spot called "Nailing This," the story of a competitive woman who was winning Christmas with the help of Big Lots. In a follow-up, she and her backing singers were winning Christmas by eschewing gift cards ("You don't tell the one you love, 'Buy your own gifts'").

But my own introduction to the campaign was the "Every Day Is Black Friday," which has to be the catchiest song about Black Friday ever written.

What anchored the ads, aside from Motown-infused tunes and spot-on lyrics that spoke to the human (holiday) condition, was frontwoman Deanna DellaCioppa. I didn't know that she was a contestant on "America's Got Talent." What I did know was that I couldn't look away. She's got an actual presence, something hard to pull off in general, much less in an ad campaign -- especially one in heavy holiday rotation like this one was.

Despite the barrage, the Big Lots effort never made me want to reach for the Little Drummer Boy's sticks and jam them in my ears -- unlike the music in Target's holiday spots, an overly repetitive assault that should earn that retailer a lump of coal, a timeout and possibly a beating.

Did these ads increase sales for Big Lots? Too soon to tell. But they did put a retailer I've never much considered on my radar (and I'm not even the target). Hell, the Black Friday spot quit running last month and I still can't get "the Black Friday-est Black Friday of all" out of my head. And the thing is, I don't mind.

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