JC Penney Puts the Penny to Work in New Campaign

Spot From McGarryBowen Encourages Customers to Get Your Penney's Worth

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Good thing the U.S. never followed through with plans to cease penny production. The one-cent copper coin is the star of JC Penney's new advertising campaign "Get Your Penney's Worth," which plays on the retailer's name and its value-pushing prices.

The new marketing will kick off Feb. 28 with a 30-second TV spot asking consumers, "Shouldn't everything we do in life be worth it?" and touting JC Penney's ability to make shopping worth their while. JC Penney created a logo with a shopping bag handle to help promote the effort, which will be rounded out with social media, digital and print advertising as well. A Spanish version of the ad will air on some channels to reach the 114-year-old brand's Hispanic shoppers.

Since joining the Plano, Texas-based company as chief customer and marketing officer in April of last year, Mary Beth West has been researching JC Penney's core customer, whom the retailer considers a modern American mom looking for deals with little time to waste. Many of the brand's shoppers are women who juggle being the primary breadwinner in their family with raising children.

"She doesn't have the luxury of going to a store and walking out empty-handed," said Ms. West. "The definition of value to her has extended beyond price, quality and style -- it's also about her time and her effort."

The campaign is some of JC Penney's first work from McGarryBowen, which the 1,020-unit chain chose to lead its marketing last year. A TV ad promoting the retailer's new appliances debuted earlier this month. OMD is handling media duties, while VP+C is responsible for public relations. Narrative is amplifying JC Penney's social media message, including a #SoWorthIt hashtag.

As part of the penny-saving idea, JC Penney is also rolling out one-cent bargains. On Feb. 28, for example, consumers who buy a product from clothing brand Arizona can get a second item for one penny. Similar deals with the retailer's private-label brands will continue through the year. Ms. West also noted that the marketer will heavily feature higher-end brands such as KitchenAid, Nike and Levi's in its advertising so shoppers know such brands are available at JC Penney. Stores will also be remerchandised so that the products on mannequins are available for purchase nearby rather than scattered throughout the shop.

"All of the messaging works together for the first time," said Ms. West.

She declined to say how much JC Penney is spending on the campaign. In 2014, the most recent full year for which data is available, JC Penney spent $887 million on advertising, a 4% decline from the year earlier: $389.7 million on measured media and $497.3 million on unmeasured, according to Ad Age's DataCenter.

For the crucial holiday period of November and December, JC Penney reported a same-store sales increase of 3.9% over the year-earlier period. The chain will report fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 26.

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